NEW YORK CITY-A year after proposing Newtown Creek as acandidate for its list of severely polluted sites, the USEnvironmental Protection Agency on Monday confirmed that theheavily contaminated waterway will be designated a Superfund site.The move had the backing of community activists as well as theBloomberg administration.

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“Newtown Creek is a key urban waterway, which providesrecreational and economic resources to many communities,” JudithEnck, EPA regional administrator based in New York City, says in astatement. “Throughout the investigation and cleanup, we will workclosely with the communities along the creek to achieve arevitalization of this heavily-contaminated urban waterway.”

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The Newtown Creek Alliance, one of the most active local groupsseeking Superfund designation for the 3.8-mile creek separatingBrooklyn and Queens, says it supports the EPA’s decision. However,the group adds that “we want to adamantly reinforce our concernsthat the planning and remediation process be conducted in a mannerthat minimizes negative impacts for the businesses andcommunity-supported development projects near the creek.”

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In particular, the NCA says it's interested in making sure thatthe planned dredging at the mouth of the creek and along WhaleCreek proceed as scheduled, along with construction of affordablehousing at Hunter’s Point in Queens, and the construction of publicopen space at 65 Commercial St. in Brooklyn. "It’s also importantthat the EPA quickly identify staging sites during the course ofremediation so that developers may move forward with plans forother sites," according to the NCA.

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The city and state have devoted considerable attention in recentyears to cleaning up the heavily polluted creek, at one time thecountry’s busiest industrial port. However, the NCA says a cleancreek would be “inconceivable” without federal support. Sewage andindustrial contaminants have been dumped into the creek since 1856,and there have been spills from nearby refineries that have beenestimated to total nearly three times the amount of oil dischargedinto Alaskan coastal waters during the Exxon Valdezaccident in 1989.

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Cleanup of the creek could take 10 years and cost $500 million,according to published reports. The creek joins the Gowanus Canalon the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities list, making it thesecond site in the city to receive such a designation.

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.