Tarrytown environmental advocacy group Riverkeeper filed a suit against Exxon in 2004 under the Clean Water Act, alleging that the company was responsible for a half-century old spill which has dumped an estimated 17 million gallons of oil into the creek dividing western Queens from Brooklyn.Basil Seggos, Riverkeeper's chief investigator, announced a new lawsuit against the company on the grounds that it is using a pollution pipe along the Greenpoint side of the creek to discharge partially treated ground water into the creek without a federal Clean Water Act permit. He said the water contains benzene and other toxins. City Council members Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and David Yassky (D-Brooklyn) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joined Riverkeeper and community activists in Greenpoint last week to criticize Exxon's clean-up efforts and to join Riverkeeper's suit."This is truly a problem of epic proportions," Markowitz said. "In Brooklyn, we call it a 'shonda,' a shame."Seggos said Exxon also continues to allow 32.5 gallons of oil to seep each day into the creek.ExxonMobil could not be reached for comment.The U.S. Coast Guard first detected the spill, which has surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska by six million gallons, in 1978, but the spill occurred more than a half century ago. To date, 8.7 million gallons of an estimated 17 million gallons of oil spilled into the creek have been cleaned up. Riverkeeper officials said the leak is one of the world's largest underground spills.The state Environmental Protection Agency is currently planning to conduct an independent study of the spill which would analyze soil, water and air to assess the health and safety impact on Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods near the creek. The study is scheduled for completion by July. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) called last Thursday for congressional hearings on the spill to examine clean-up efforts and potential violations by Exxon of federal environmental laws.Elected officials accused the company of using part of its record breaking $36.1 billion net profit from 2005 to pay lawyers to fight their suit against the company rather than using the money to clean the site."You'd think there is no way in the American corporate culture that they could do this, but ExxonMobil is behaving like a B-movie villain," Gioia said. "They are laughing all the way to the bank." Residents from Greenpoint filed a class-action suit against ExxonMobil in 2005 on the grounds that the company failed to prevent the spill or clean it up.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@times
©2007 Community News Group
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