Pollution and pollution

I live on the main commercial garbage route for New York City.

Garbage trucks and buses idle beneath my window throughout the night, releasing exhaust. Fine particulate matter – or maybe just plain old dust, and lots of it – settles on my furniture, my books, my clothes.

Before moving to Brooklyn from Florida 3 1/2 years ago, Max & I spent some time with friends in Greenpoint, scouting out the area.

When the move was still several months away, but after we’d signed a lease on our first Williamsburg apartment (conveniently located next to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), I started researching the neighborhood online to find out more about the arts community.

The first thing I came across was a page devoted to a study that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was conducting on toxic contaminants in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area of Brooklyn.

(“Residents of this community are potentially subject to exposure through multiple pathways to a large number of toxic pollutants released by a wide variety of sources. This study assesses exposure to more than 100 pollutants across the multiple exposure pathways, using data from the three national studies as well as data collected in the community through other environmental assessment efforts,” the EPA site says.)

My research also revealed that Williamsburg is host to the only radioactive storage facility in the city, to a huge underground oil spill, and to a number of power plants.

A federal civil rights complaint filed in 2000 by U.S. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez “to stop the concentration of waste transfer stations and other polluting facilities in the Red Hook and Greenpoint/Williamsburg communities” observed that the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area contains “137 sites that use hazardous substances, called right-to-know sites, 15 toxic-release inventory sites, 24 waste transfer stations and one low-level radioactive waste site, all within a 5½-mile radius.”

About a year and a half ago, I sent email to address given on the EPA site (talcott.fred@epa.gov) for updates on the EPA study. I never received a response.

Some grants for educating the Williamsburg public about contaminants have been handed out since then.

The education is seeming increasingly more necessary these days, as it becomes clear that preventing further pollution is not a priority for the state or city.

Despite local protests, there probably will be a new power plant on the waterfront by 2006.


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