Roebling Oil Field Update: Drilling Begins
We checked in on the Roebling Oil Field--the site at N. 11th Street and Roebling in Williamsburg where oil has oozed from the ground--on Sunday and found that despite the fact that the building is now rising above street level, a slight scent of oil can still be detected on the western side of the site near Driggs Avenue. As of yesterday afternoon the Department of Environmental Conservation had begun drilling "test wells" at N. 11th and Roebling, which GL had been told they would do about a month ago.
Neighborhood sources report that construction workers continue to work on the end of the site that is being excavated without any protective gear. GL talked to News 12 Brooklyn about the site on Monday and the developer apparently told the station, after a report in the New York Times based on GL's coverage, that testing will be done to determine the source of the contamination. (Oil began oozing into the site last fall when excavation began. The most likely source is a ruptured oil tank under a nearby building, which is shown on neighborhood environmental maps.)
Meanwhile, a local resident told GL that oil was discovered at a different development site on Bayard Street, but its presence was not reported to environmental officials. "There was oil coming out of the ground," he said. "They pumped out some of the surface oil and laid a foundation without a protective membrane," he told us. "They literally covered it up."
He referred to the site as "the Poster Child for everything that’s wrong with oversight."
If the report is accurate, it would be the fourth site within a quarter mile radius in Greenpoint where oil has been reported in the ground at a construction site. (This is not the site of the notorious Greenpoint Oil Spill, which is some distance away, but has raised concerns about residents of a broader spread of that oil or of significant neighborhood contamination.)
Several years ago, New York State declined to do testing of conditions on the Williamsburg waterfront, where toxic contamination left behind by manufactured gas plants and oil facilities is believed to be severe. The state left it up to developers to conduct testing on their own sites. Williamsburg activist Phil DePaolo recalled a visit with executives of Trans Gas, which has lobbied to build a generating plant on the waterfront. The firm did soil testing down to bedrock because most of its facility would have been underground and it kept samples in a freezer. Mr. DePaolo described the deep soil sample he was shown as smelling like "tar, sewage and oil that had been left in a jar in the sun to cook for a month."
Maps show that branches of the Bushwick Creek once ran from the East River to the site we call the Roebling Oil Field.
"I'm not comfortable with leaving it up to the developers to tell us that everything is cool."
(Coming Up Tomorrow: More on Alarming Cases of Brain Cancer in Greenpoint)