Inside the walls and barbed wire fence that largely hides the nondescript facility beside Newtown Creek in Brooklyn, a handful of trailers sit in a cluster surrounded by smaller buildings that belong to Exxon Mobil.
It is not much to look at, but Exxon Mobil officials say the operation is slowly eliminating the contamination that has been deep underground in the Greenpoint neighborhood for decades. The operation, and the contamination, stem from an oil spill that occurred more than half a century ago and has been described as more than twice as large as the Exxon Valdez disaster, which released 11 million gallons of crude oil off the Alaskan coast.
The Brooklyn spill, which resulted from an industrial explosion in 1950, released an estimated 17 million gallons of oil and oil products, polluted the soil, left traces of toxic chemicals in Newtown Creek, led to years of community and environmental outcry and became the basis of several continuing lawsuits.
Nearly eight million gallons remain beneath the Exxon Mobil property and nearby properties along Kingsland Avenue, though the contamination cannot be seen or smelled. How long it will take to get rid of the remaining material is unclear. “We’ll be here until the job is done and done right,” said Barry Wood, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil.