The Newtown Pentacle

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Superfund me

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

LO, BEHOLD, and TREMBLE… for the Newtown Pentacle is back in session…

Over several of the last few years, agents and officials of the Federal Government have conducted a strange and secretive investigation into certain conditions within and around the ancient New York waterway called the Newtown Creek.

The public first learned of it in 2009, when a vast series of public meetings and pronouncements were offered by agents of the Environmental Protection Agency which confirmed and introduced the news that the ancient corridor of industry and forbidden history called the Newtown Creek was being considered for inclusion on the Federal Superfund list.

This listing would bestow extraordinary powers over the waterway, and ultimate authority, to the Federal Government. Effectively, the 3.8 mile long border of Brooklyn and Queens with its enormous number of crumbling bulkheads, worm eaten piers, and supposedly empty warehouses are now the responsibility of the G-Men. Uninquiring souls let the occurrence pass as one of the major developments in a spasmodic war on environmental pollution and the toxic legacy of the industrial revolution.

from epa.gov

Release date: 09/27/2010

Contact Information: John Senn (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today added Newtown Creek in New York City to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The final listing will allow EPA to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the creek to determine what remedial actions need to be implemented. Various sediment and surface water samples have been taken along the creek. Potentially harmful contaminants such as pesticides, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been detected in Newtown Creek along with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air.



“The toxic pollution in Newtown Creek is more than a century in the making. EPA is placing Newtown Creek on the Superfund list to ensure the creek receives a thorough cleanup,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Newtown Creek is a key urban waterway, which provides recreational and economic resources to many communities. Throughout the investigation and cleanup, we will work closely with the communities along the creek to achieve a revitalization of this heavily-contaminated urban waterway.”



EPA proposed Newtown Creek be added to the Superfund NPL list in September 2009. EPA received and considered public comments on its proposal before making its final decision.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday the 27th of September in this year of 2010, the EPA announced the Superfund listing of Newtown Creek would be moving forward.

Interesting coincidences abound for this date:

The first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1908 in Detroit,  Einstein had his E=MC2 formula published for the first time in 1905, Crete fell to the Turks in 1669, and the Jesuits were granted a Papal charter in 1540. The Warren Commission released its report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1964, the Ottoman Siege of Vienna began in 1529, the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, and Thomas Nast was born in 1840.

It is also 110 years and 19 days after this report appeared in the NY Times, and some 122 years and 11 days since this report appeared in the same publication.

also from epa.gov

EPA had previously responded to requests by members of Congress to evaluate specific sites along Newtown Creek by publishing a September 2007 report that contained a review of past and ongoing work being conducted to address the Greenpoint oil spill as well as recommendations regarding future work to assist with the spill response. The state of New York referred the site to EPA due to the complex nature of the contamination in the creek. EPA’s Superfund study and cleanup are expected to focus on the sediments in the creek and on identifying and addressing sources of pollution that continue to contribute to the contamination.

Newtown Creek is part of the core area of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, which has been designated by EPA as an “estuary of national significance.” Despite the ongoing pollution problems, some residents currently use the creek for recreational purposes such as kayaking, while others eat the fish they catch from the creek.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

According to statements rendered by Government representatives, the actual work on the remediation project is not scheduled to begin in earnest for several months (if not years), as a period of further study and evaluation of the endemic situation before the final formulation of their plans to ferret out and eradicate all that there is which may be buried down there.

The government plans on removing hundreds of metric tons of the sediment which lines the bottom of the Newtown Creek. Privileged to have been included on the conference call during which EPA announced their decision to the third estate, your humble narrator queried EPA personnel as to the methodology of its removal (terrestrial industries versus maritime) and whether they had determined a probable destination for the contaminant laced material they intend to dredge out.

Both questions seemed to have been unexpected, and they reported that answers will be readily uncovered when the final action plan is unveiled sometime in the near future.

additionally, from epa.gov

In the mid -1800s, the area adjacent to the 3.8-mile Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City. More than 50 industrial facilities were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. The creek was crowded with commercial vessels, including large boats bringing in raw materials and fuel and taking out oil, chemicals and metals. In addition to the industrial pollution that resulted from all of this activity, the city began dumping raw sewage directly into the water in 1856. During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. Some factories and facilities still operate along it, and various adjacent contaminated sites have contributed to its contamination. Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is badly polluted.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that Newtown Creek was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. Since then, a number of government-sponsored cleanups of the creek have taken place. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has sampled sediment and surface water at a number of locations along the creek since 1980. In early 2009, EPA sampled the sediment throughout the length of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. EPA will review existing information about Newtown Creek to develop a plan for further investigation.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The professional press also on the call seemed more interested in the Gowanus Canal, how the Mayor felt about the announcement, and grew fixated on the cost of the cleanup effort. EPA clearly spelt out that its budgeting process has barely begun, and they can neither supply a final cost estimate or time table at this early date. This is actually the logical course, as the secrets of the Newtown Creek must- as always- bubble up and reveal themselves to those who stare deeply into its occluded depths.

And, in their own time, all the poisons in the mud will leach out.

and also, from epa.gov

EPA conducted an Expanded Site Investigation (ESI) of Newtown Creek in 2009 as part of the Hazard Ranking System scoring process for NPL listing under Superfund. Based on the ESI, which was focused on Newtown Creek itself and not its tributaries, EPA concluded that metals, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds (including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls) were present in Creek sediments at elevated concentrations. The variety and distribution of the detected contaminants suggests that they originated from a variety of sources. Previous environmental investigations of Newtown Creek, or specific portions of the Creek, also disclosed that sediments in Newtown Creek are contaminated by a wide variety of hazardous substances. Environmental investigations of upland parcels adjacent to or nearby the Creek have disclosed contamination of those parcels by hazardous substances similar to hazardous substances found in sediments in Newtown Creek.

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  1. [...] antiquarian and environmental communities of the Newtown Pentacle in October revolved around the EPA’s superfund announcement about Newtown Creek at the very end of September. October is spooky time around these parts, and I spent a little time digging around the area for [...]


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