Energy giant ExxonMobil will double the amount of toxic sludge it is currently pumping out of the ground underneath Greenpoint by the end of the year, the company announced on Wednesday.
Andrew Warrell, the company’s global remediation manager, said ExxonMobil will add 10 pumps to the 11 it is already operating as a part of its effort to clean up the estimated 30 million gallons of oil that slowly leaked into the ground from numerous oil refineries over the course of a century.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency once estimated that it would take another 30 years to finish the cleanup, but Warrell told reporters that “there’s no basis for those estimates.”
He added that his company has already recovered 9.5 million gallons and spent $50 million — and is currently pumping the oil out at the rate of about 1,000 gallons a day. That number could double when the company starts running the additional pumps, which it has already dug wells for, in the next six weeks.
The recovered oil is given to BP, another petrol giant, in exchange for use of its distribution terminal on the site. BP sells that oil, but Warrell said he doubts the company makes a profit on it.
The Coast Guard discovered the plume in Newtown Creek during a routine patrol in 1978 and later estimated the size of the spill to be 17 million gallons. An EPA report in September nearly doubled that number.
The plume, which is three times larger than the spill created by Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, sits under 55 acres of Greenpoint. In February, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sued ExxonMobil for dragging its feet on the cleanup, which was ordered by the state in 1990.
Warrell dismissed that idea — and also poo-pooed the lawsuits filed by Greenpoint residents who are suing for monetary damages, alleging that the plume has caused health problems and diminished their property values.
“We think those cases are totally without merit,” Warrell said.
A report by the state Department of Environmental Conservation seemed to concur, saying that there is no evidence of either oil or dangerous vapors seeping up into people’s homes.