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State lax on cleaning up toxic sites left by ExxonMobil, report claims


ALBANY — Thousands of contaminated sites left by oil giant ExxonMobil and its predecessor companies have not been cleaned up because of lax action by state regulators, a new report claims.

The report from the New York Public Interest Research Group found that more than 3,500 ExxonMobil gas stations around the state and dozens of larger terminal and storage facilities have not been adequately cleaned up because the state has not done enough to press the company to do so.

One of the most notorious sites is the former Standard Oil Company facility along the Newtown Creek in Brooklyn which, dating back to the mid 1800s, has spilled an estimated 30 million gallons of oil into the creek and surrounding soil, according to the report.

“It’s long past time for analysis and talking, it’s time for action,” said NYPIRG’s Blair Horner.

Contaminants from the sites pose major threats to drinking water sources and endanger the health of neighboring communities, the report stated.

“These things have to get cleaned up, they don’t get better over time,” he added.

The report, which used government data compiled by the research firm Toxics Targeting, focused on ExxonMobil because it is one of the biggest oil companies in the world and appeared to have the most contaminated sites in New York but the state needs to get tough with all polluters, Horner said.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation defended the agency and blasted NYPIRG’s report.

"DEC rapidly responds to and cleans up thousands of contaminated sites every year in every corner of the state to ensure that the environment and public health are protected at all times while aggressively pursuing and holding those accountable for the contamination,” said spokesman Sean Mahar. “Our dedicated field staff and first responders will continue their daily response to spills to keep New Yorkers safe and to suggest otherwise or discredit our staff's commitment, is an irresponsible act by a few headline grabbers to shamefully feed New Yorkers with misinformation."

NYPIRG’s Blair Horner said too much time has passed and now "it's time for action."

ExxonMobil, in a statement, also slammed the report as inaccurate.

“Where historical impacts exist as a result of its own or its predecessors' operations, the company works under the oversight of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to address those impacts,” the company said in a statement. “Remediation of legacy sites is a broad issue for the industry and ExxonMobil is an active participant. ExxonMobil takes its environmental responsibility seriously and is committed to meeting its compliance and remediation obligations.”

Horner and Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting said state law requires polluters clean up contaminated sites but often the process gets bogged down in “endless negotiations” and disputes over how to do it and how much it will cost.

“Many of these problems have been known about for decades and they still haven’t been cleaned up,” Hang said.

Hang said another notorious example of contamination is a 315-mile abandoned oil pipeline built by Standard Oil that stretches from Bayonne, N.J., to Olean, N.Y., Oil releases from the abandoned line have been reported in at least a half-dozen different locations.