Touring an Oil Spill Twice the Size of Exxon Valdez — in Brooklyn
People take various approaches and go to great lengths to save waterways. We brought you the background details of the Greenpoint oil spill just prior to New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo announcing his intention to bring legal action against the corporations responsible for it. This month's issue of Mother Jones has a good article focusing on the cheif investigator for Riverkeeper, Basil Seggos, who has been working on the front lines to get the area, and America's most polluted waterway Newtown Creek, clean from the toxic cocktail of oil, raw sewage, and industrial chemicals that have been dumped there. One of Seggos's tactics for building pressure on government as well as on the corporations responsible for the spill is to take reporters out on the creek in a boat that he transports to the site strapped atop his car. In 2003, I went on an early Seggos tour similar to the one in the above video in which he rowed his boat to various disturbing sites of interest while narrating relevant information. You'll hear him say that beaches are closed when there are 100-200 bacterial spores per 100 mililiters of water and that Newtown has in some places 500,000 to one million bacterial spores per 100 mililiters. If any creek water gets onto your face, he advises not to rub it in your eyes or nose. On my tour, Seggos's oar flung a drop of water onto my upper lip. Two minutes later I had a burning sore.Recently, the EPA released its report on Newtown Creek (full pdf report here) stating that the greatest threat from the millions of gallons of petroleum is the risk that vapors from the oil could seep into homes and businesses in the area. The report said that about 8.8 million gallons of oil have been recovered since the spill was discovered in 1978, but that at least that much remains in the creek.
Such a report as well as the state's legal action would never have come about were it not for Seggos's efforts, and we all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.