August 17, 2019

On October 5th, 1950 a reinforced concrete sewer exploded in the heart of Greenpoint, Brooklin, New York City, blowing manhole covers three stories high, shattering shop windows, injuring three persons. The explosion was the first indication of the massive oil spill lurking under Greenpoint. The full dimensions of the spill would remain a mystery until September 1978, when a US Coast Guard helicopter, on a routine patrol discovered an enormous plume of oil flowing in Newton Creek, in the Greenpoint neighborhood. A subsequent study revealed the large-scale soil contamination, which was estimated in excess of 50 acres and a spillage from 17 to 30 million gallons. Research has determined that ExxonMobil, Chevron/Texaco, and BP refining operations leaked the oil and refining products into the soils and aquifers of Greenpoint over the course of decades. The oil spill is not the result of one distinct event but the toxic culmination of 140 years of spillage. The first pumps were installed at the site in late 1979, and recovery efforts have increased over the years. Only 10 percent of the oil was recovered by 1988, causing community members and environmentalists to become increasingly concerned about health and ecological risks. In 2010, ExxonMobil agreed to settle, paying $25 million and executing additional cleanup actions around the area of the spill, including restoration of soil and groundwater. According to recent estimates 14 million gallons still remain under the city. ExxonMobil continues siphoning up the oil lake that sits underneath Greenpoint, but says it has to do it slowly. They claim if they siphon too fast a large part of Greenpoint could fall into a sinkhole. (Source: Newton Creek Alliance – Greenpoint refineries in 1960)