New York State Can Now Make Hazardous Waste Polluters Clean Up Their Shit

12/16/2011 2:15 PM |

The Gowanus Canal. That stuff in the middle dont look too good.

  • Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
  • The Gowanus Canal. That stuff in the middle don’t look too good.

Well, hey now. In a battle of corporations versus environmental regulation, it looks like this time the environment might have actually won. Yesterday’s ruling from the Court of Appeals says New York State now can fully go after companies responsible for polluting the federally-designated worst-of-the-worst, including hazardous waste sites like the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, by making the polluters restore the areas to “pre-industrial conditions to the extent feasible.” Unsurprisingly, some of the perps include familiar corporate entities BP, Exxon Mobil, National Grid and Chevron. Take that, polluters. It’s an early Christmas for the rest of us.

Last year, the EPA designated the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek as Superfund sites, or uncontrolled hazardous waste areas, which targets them for clean up. The Gowanus Canal, which touches Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, the EPA found to be contaminated with coal tar wastes (a known human carcinogen), heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs (probable human carcinogens), and volatile organic compounds or VOCs, which are easily evaporated into the air we breathe. The New York Times has also estimated that between 17 and 30 million gallons of oil have spilled, unseen, into Newtown Creek over the years, completely destroying any chance at a functioning ecosystem. Perhaps more alarming is that this toxic waste has leached into the ground in Greenpoint, where people live and work. According to the same article, Exxon Mobil “is responsible for an oil plume that extends under about 300 homes” there. Meanwhile, sediment and water samples from the creek have also yielded a cocktail of potential threats to human health, including pesticides, metals, PCBs and VOCs.

In 2007, owners of Superfund site properties sued the state, claiming that the Department of Environmental Conservation didn’t have the authority to make the companies to clean them up fully—only to make them to remove “significant” environmental threats.

The Court of Appeals, in a 5-to-2 decision, ruled this claim total bullshit. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, it’s a “substantial victory for the state’s citizens, land and water.”

[via New York Times]

One Comment

  • there is hope in the world this holiday season!
    It’s time that these urban waterways be “restored to pre-industrial conditions”; they flow through very densely used urban areas which is why they should be clean. The urban population deserves the same level of environmental protection as wilderness sites. Afterall, the risks from pollution are higher in an urban setting.