While most New Yorkers are familiar with the Gowanus Canal – the pollution, and the ongoing discussions concerning its cleanup efforts – less are aware of the equally (if not more) polluted Newtown Creek. Located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this three-and-a-half-mile-long estuary used to be one of the most heavily used waterways in the country, making it one of the most polluted as well. In fact, the creek is the site of one of the largest oil spills in U.S history – the culmination of decades of oil leakage. The creek is currently undergoing cleanup efforts after it received a Superfund from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010. As the clean up efforts continue, EPA contractors are sure to dig up some interesting, and potentially disturbing, facts from the creek’s past.
In the meantime, here’s our own list of secrets about Newtown Creek:
10. There Was an Explosion at Greenpoint
Image via Newtown Creek Alliance
On October 5th, 1950, an explosion rocked Greenpoint, Brooklyn, ripping a 10-foot-wide hole out of the pavement at the junction of Manhattan Avenue and Huron. It sent concrete shrapnel flying, blew 25 manhole covers up to three stories high and shattered windows in over 500 buildings. While there were a few minor injuries, it was remarkable that no one was killed or severely hurt.
The subsequent investigation concluded that the spontaneous explosion had been caused by petroleum and other industrial pollutants that had either leaked from storage bunkers along the creek or been deliberately been poured into the neighborhood’s soil and water. Unknown to the investigators of the time, the explosion was the first sign of a massive oil spill that lurked underneath.