Newtown Creek Pollution

Monday, October 22, 2007

January 12, 2005
One of the most polluted waterways in the country forms part of the Brooklyn and Queens border. Newtown Creek is filled with pollutants, but now the owner of one of the companies responsible has been arrested, Constantine Quadrozzi, CEO of Quality Concrete.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes announced the arrest at a news conference Tuesday.

“What we saw really, quite simply, was appalling,” said Hynes. “The direct discharge into the creek by these companies had so polluted the waterway that it was turned into a sewer.”

Quality Concrete is charged with dumping liquid cement into the creek, which is a part of the Hudson River estuary. Quadrozzi was charged with more than 40 felonies and misdemeanors, punishable with fines up to $$50,000 a day and up to four years behind bars.

Hynes was alerted to the problem by the watchdog group Riverkeeper. The group discovered the pollution in 2003 and planned to sue the company. But Quality Concrete said it would clean up its act – it didn't.

That's when the district attorney stepped in with criminal charges.

Now, Riverkeeper wants the focus put back on ExxonMobil, which was responsible for a 17 million gallon oil spill 50 years ago. The oil is still around, seeping into ground water and land.

“People want to use the waterways, but they're limited because of the pollution and impact that is there,” said Ludger Balan of the group Urban Divers.

“The fish that do go up this creek get exposed to the benzene in the creek,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the chief prosecutor for Riverkeeper, “then will go down into New York Harbor or Long Island sound. A fisherman will catch it and feed it to his family, not knowing he's feeding them carcinogenic materials.”

Hynes vowed to crack down on any other companies polluting the creek. Environmentalists say all this sends the right message: If you pollute for profit, you will pay.

- Tanya Valle