The blob

[Image: The Brooklyn sludge slowly surfaces… Photo by Jeff Riedel for New York Magazine].

The largest oil spill in American history is apparently: 1) in New York City, 2) nearly a century old, and 3) beginning to re-surface under Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
An article in New York Magazine this week dives head-first into the spill, asking us to “imagine a viscous tar-colored blob stretching amoebalike through the Earth.” This viscous blob is really “ten million gallons of toxic gunk trapped in the Brooklyn aquifer,” made of “gasoline, solvents, and associated poisons bubbling up from the very ground.” These associated poisons include naptha, from which napalm is manufactured.
The subterranean Brooklyn blob represents “more than a century’s worth of spills, leaks, and waste dumped by oil companies” – and it’s “pooled into a vast underground lake, more than 55 acres wide and up to 25 feet thick.”
Not only has it infiltrated the region’s water supply (don’t worry: they pipe water in from the Catskills), but it means you can set the soil on fire.

[Image: A map of the subsurface blob; illustration by Jason Lee, courtesy of New York Magazine].

Worse, thousands of people now live on top of it…
From the article:

No one really knows what the consequences of Greenpoint’s oil spill have been – or will be. It’s like the dust from 9/11, the chemicals dumped at Love Canal, the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, or even global warming. Do we ever really know their costs? Perhaps twenty years from now epidemiological studies will reveal a link between living in Greenpoint and dying of cancer.

Though it seems the cancer rate may already be on the rise.
In any case, I could go on and on – or you could just read the whole article. It’s not a life-changing read – and it’s conclusion is strangely anticlimactic – but the very idea of a black tarry blob drifting beneath the streets of New York is far too awesome to resist.

(Thanks to Dan Polsby for the tip!)

9 thoughts on “The blob”

  1. They could be rich with oil!!!!
    What does it take to realize that the blood of the Earth is oil, and the more we remove the more ill she becomes….>?

  2. Theres a similar blob in the suburbs of chicago where the government contracted refineries to make experimental jet fuels. They figured it was swampland so they created what where called “pits”. This thing is a secret and from what I here has spread under most of the town of Cicero.

    How many more blobs are out there I wonder?

  3. As for the New York magazine article, there is nothing resurfacing accept the smear campaign against Greenpoint. 50% of the spill has already been cleaned up and the vapor study announced last week showed NO vapors eminating from the spill into homes. Even more curious is the fact that the sarcoma victim listed in the article never lived in Greenpoint. This was uncovered and reported over 6 months ago. He lived on Devoe street in Williamsburg. In fact, three cases of this extremely rare sarcoma cancer are actually on that same block in Williamsburg (nowhere near the oil spill, not even in the same zip code). One more case is five blocks away and even further away from Greenpoint and the oil spill. In fact, one victim got cancer after residing in the same apartment as the cancer victim in the story. Tom Stagg in the article does not live above the spill. He lives on Newel Street. He also can’t keep his story straight from news article to news article. It is not clear if he has mental problems.

    Greenpoint has lower cancer rates than Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights and many other Bklyn neighborhoods. It also has some of the lowest cancer rates in all of nyc/nys. These stats can easily be seen at

    The above post is a perfect illustration of the smear campaign unleashed on Greenpoint ever since we had our waterfront rezoned for residential development against the wishes of the Brooklyn based politicians. The Borough President voted against the rezoning, but the community made an appeal to the Mayor and won.

    None of these attacks were directed at Williamsburg when development projects started their, even though the toxic issues and high cancer rates that exist in Community board 1 exist in the Williamsburg section and not Greenpoint.

    Williamsburg environmental issues have been ignored by the media. Stories have tried to divert attention away from Williamsburg toxic issues by lying about Greenpoint. The Roebling oil spill (aka Williamsburg oil spill) never even makes it in the press. It should be noted that the Greenpoint residential community was built on clean farmland in the 1800’s. Even the waterfront industry in Greenpoint was clean. The major factory was a producer of rope. Not so with Williamsburg. The Eastern District terminal site along the Williamsburg waterfront is a designated toxic brownfield that was home to numerous polluting industries including the Astral oil site. These toxic brownfields are where the new residential properties are being built.

    Lets do a Greenpoint vs Williamsburg toxic score card.

    Liquid Natural Gas storage facilities in Williamsburg: Yes, in East Williamsburg

    Liquid Natural Gas storage facilities in Greenpoint: none

    Radioactive storage facilities in Williamsburg: Radiac on Kent Ave

    Radioactive storage facilities in Greenpoint: none

    Williamsburg oil spill size: Unknown (it might be even bigger than the Exxon Valdez) The Astral oil company operated on the Williamsburg waterfront for decades and may have spilled over 100 million gallons of oil into the ground under Williamsburg contaminating ground water and creating toxic vapors. Many of Williamsburg’s cancer victims may have died because of this oil contamination. Williamsburg’s high cancer rates may now be better understood. How many new residents know about the potential deadly health risks that this oil poses?

    Greenpoint oil spill size: defined and now half its original size.

    Williamsburg oil spill location: Under newly developed luxury condos and possibly under the majority of the developing community. The full devastating results can only be determined by a lengthy study.

    Greenpoint oil spill location: Under the remote industrial property next to the East Williamsburg industrial park.

    Greenpoint condos being built on former toxic brownfields: none

    Williamsburg condos being built on toxic brownfields: Many (including the Eastern District Site, and now the Williamsburg Oil field site)

    Blogs revealing the toxic hazards in Williamsburg: Hard to find

    Blogs dedicated to spreading lies about toxic hazards in Greenpoint: You can hardly swing a stick without hitting one.

    All of Greenpoint less desirable industries of the past were located in the eastern industrial section along the Newtown creek. Greenpoint’s East river waterfront had been home to lumberyards, rope factories for a century and then was abandoned for nearly half a century. None of Greenpoint’s East River waterfront has the toxic history that Williamsburg’s Eastern district terminal has. The smear campaign unleashed on Greenpoint, just when we it was rezoned curiously excluded Williamsburg’s toxic issues. The media still isn’t covering the issues, just day after day coverage of hipsterville. Do a williamsburg search in the NY times. It’s pretty revealing.

    Luis Garden Acosta, Founder/President & CEO of El Puente, a highly respected community human rights institution that promotes leadership for peace and justice through the engagement of members (youth and adult) in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness and environmental action has called Williamsburg “the most toxic place to live in America” in a documentary created by Williamsburg based VBS organization. Other rare cancer clusters in Willamsburg have been reported.

  4. Unlike “Greenpoint Archive”, I am a Greenpoint resident who is quite concerned about the spill. It is a reality, not a “smear campaign against Greenpoint.”

    It is only “50% cleaned up” if you accept the oil companies’ figures, which many now believe to be far too low. The full size of the spill may be 30 million gallons.

    Yes, adjacent Williamsburg is also heavily polluted, and contains a whole slew of other toxic threats. But that does not diminish the dangers of the Greenpoint spill.

    I’m not sure how the previous poster’s conspiracy theory is supposed to work. The oil spill story was a smear job perpetrated after the Greenpoint/Williamsburg rezoning? Why? In order to reduce new development in Greenpoint? If so, it certainly hasn’t worked: new condos are springing up all over Greenpoint, in spite of the spill.

    In any case, the spill has been known about for a long time — it was hardly invented in the last couple of years. Perhaps the rezoning and gentrification of north Brooklyn has contributed to awareness of the spill. That’s not a bad thing, if it means that the cleanup is accelerated.

    Why would anyone truly concerned about the welfare of Greenpoint residents take the side of the oil companies?

  5. Although the community is unanimous in its determination to have the spill completely cleaned up and to reclaim the Newtown creek, some question whether the resurfacing of this nearly 30 year old oil spill story is being used to attack the community after it won its rezoning battle against the wishes of Brooklyn based politicians (and divert attention away from cancer cluster issue in Williamsburg). The media reports have not included the fact that: 1) More than half of the 17 million gallon spill has already been cleaned up. 2) The remediation process has been going on, with the blessing of local elected officials, since 1992 and continues. 3) The spill is almost entirely under the remote western industrial section of Greenpoint near the East Williamsburg industrial park. There are a few residential streets near Kingsland Avenue that are above the spill, but the vast majority of residential properties are not involved with the spill. 4) The Newtown Creek runs along Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Maspeth and Bushwick, but the news articles only mention Greenpoint. 5) The Astral Oil Spill in Williamsburg is not being mentioned. 6) Articles keep talking about what the long term health effects of the spill will be, but ignore the fact that the spill had been around for fifty years already and health data shows no abnormal spike in health related issues. The vapor study that was requested had been completed and presented on May 29th 2007 and showed that there is NO vapor eminating from the oil into the air.
    The Riverkeepers Group renamed the Exxon oil spill “The Greenpoint oil spill”, in what some think was a mean spirited attempt to malign the Greenpoint community. It is curious to name an environmental tragedy after its victim and not the perpetrator. The Exxon Valdez disaster was not called the Prince William Sound’s Alaska Oil spill. The NY Post, in an article on Oct 15th by Angela Montefinise, and Senator Charles Schumer at a press conference on October 16 incorrectly reported that there was a potential cancer cluster in Greenpoint near the oil spill. However, three cases of an extremely rare sarcoma cancer are actually on a single block in Williamsburg (nowhere near the oil spill, not even in the same zip code). One more case is five blocks away and even further away from Greenpoint and the oil spill. In fact, one victim got cancer after residing in the same apartment as an unrelated cancer victim and previous tenant. Sarcomas are a very rare form of cancer, and as reported in the Post article, “You don’t see three in one block,” Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a California expert on metal detoxification, said. “Someone should be paying attention to this.” Dr. Kanti Rai, chief of oncology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, agreed that it was “worth an investigation.” Unfortunately, the Senator is calling for a health study with regard to the oil spill and is ignoring a potentially very serious heath disaster in the Williamsburg community. Neighborhood Roots has reached out numerous times to Senator Schumer’s Washington office’s communications director Eric Schultz, and Bret Rumbeck who handles environmental issues for the Senator, with no calls being returned.
    Curiously, at the same press conference Congressman Anthony Weiner stated that Greenpoint has a 25% higher asthma rate than the rest of the city. The only problem is that the two health studies done by the state and city show the asthma rate in Greenpoint to be between 25% and 50% lower than the rest of the city along with a 10% lower cancer rate. The State DEC is aware of toxic industrial sites in Willliamsburg near Devoe Street that could potentially be the cause of these rare cancers, but no one is calling for that study. “Instead, there seems to be a no holds barred attack on Greenpoint and a blatant disregard for the health concerns of the Willamsburg community”. One must question whether the recent support of massive residential development in Williamsburg and the historic resistance from Brooklyn politicians (including Borough President Howard Golden) to residential development along the recently rezoned Greenpoint East River waterfront (not near the spill) has anything to do with this dissemination of lies and the timing of these lawsuits.

  6. I stayed in Greenpoint for a couple of months in the mid nineties. I was working as an art fabricator and stayed in a warehouse with the art at night. One night we heard activity out in the street after midnight so we went out to have a look.

    There were men in white toxic spill suits, head to toe cover and breathing apparatus lowering themselves into a manhole next to a red truck with flashing yellow lights. We watched for a while then went back in to get back to work. They were gone with no trace by morning.

    We asked locals about them and they told us of the historical spill and said things like that happen all the time around there. They did not seem concerned (!)

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