From: David B. Caruso, Associated Press
Published February 9, 2007 12:00 AM

NY to Sue Exxon Mobil Over Slow Cleanup of Huge Underground Oil Slick Beneath Brooklyn

NEW YORK -- New York's attorney general told Exxon Mobil and two other oil companies Thursday that he intends to sue them for taking decades to clean up a giant underground pond of petroleum left by the refineries that once lined Brooklyn's waterfront.


In a statement, Andrew Cuomo accused Exxon Mobil of leaving a "toxic footprint" in New York City, then doing "as little as possible to address the dangers that it created."


The subterranean slick, hidden beneath more than 50 acres of homes and businesses, is believed to have been floating on Brooklyn's water table for at least half a century.


Exxon accepted responsibility for much of the spill in 1990 and constructed a pumping system that has helped to gradually extract 9.3 million gallons of oil from the ground. It has said the recovery's delicate nature makes it difficult to extract any faster.


"We take our environmental responsibility very seriously, and we are very committed to cleaning up the site," company spokeswoman Prem Nair said.


Other defendants will include the oil companies Chevron and BP, which own facilities believed to have contributed to the pollution. Spokesmen for the companies objected to being named as defendants and said they also had been actively participating in the cleanup.


The environmentalist group Riverkeeper has campaigned for years for tougher state action against the companies. The organization's president, Alex Matthiessen, said Exxon Mobil's days of treating Brooklyn "like a dumping ground are numbered."


When the Coast Guard first noticed the spill in 1978, some experts estimated that it totaled 17 million gallons -- about 6 million more than the tanker Exxon Valdez is believed to have spilled.


Exactly how the oil got in the ground is a matter of debate. One theory is that it is from a 1950 explosion, while Exxon says it was probably from a series of leaks from now-closed refineries and terminals in the area.


The state also gave notice Thursday of its intent to sue two other companies for unrelated contamination in the creek: KeySpan, which is responsible for a defunct gas plant, and Phelps Dodge, which operated a now-demolished copper smelting plant.


Keyspan said it would cooperate in any cleanup. A spokesman for Phoenix-based Phelps Dodge said the company has spent $20 million cleaning up its site.


Source: Associated Press


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