Comments on: Cleaning Up Newtown Creek, New York The EPA Blog Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:07:02 +0000 hourly 1 By: Nick Tue, 11 Jan 2011 11:57:33 +0000 Great article, thanks for sharing and taking the time to discuss this.

By: Sean Sheldrake Mon, 12 Jul 2010 17:11:38 +0000 To follow onto Dr. Duncan’s comments above, I wanted to emphasize that diving in urban waters with known or unknown levels of contamination does indeed warrant additional protective measures. EPA divers, including our two hazmat units in Seattle, WA and Edison, NJ are in a medical monitoring program which includes immunizations before beginning training. Once medically cleared, the diver must undergo a week of hazardous materials training to understand the issues involved with polluted water diving. Then the diver goes to one to three weeks of scientific diver training. Once fully trained, our divers stay fully dry (drysuit, dry gloves, full face mask at a minimum), employ decontamination procedures to protect the diver and tenders, and receive annual follow up surveillance exams.

For more information on EPA diving and diving in polluted waters, please see:

or google “EPA dive team.”

Sean Sheldrake, RPM, Unit Diving Officer
USEPA, Region 10
Environmental Cleanup Office
1200 Sixth Avenue, Suite 900, ECL-110
Seattle WA 98101-3140
Phone: 206/553-1220 / Fax: 206/553-0124
Region 10 Dive Team:

By: Bruce Duncan Wed, 07 Jul 2010 21:04:16 +0000 Tanya,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. As I indicated above, speaking with people is very important to EPA. In fact it is one of the aspects I very much enjoy, because I work for the environment and am paid by taxpayers. It is always best to learn from those we serve.

By: Bruce Duncan Wed, 07 Jul 2010 20:51:01 +0000 Lori,

Thank you for your comments. Diving for science to be EPA’s eyes under water has been very rewarding. It gets EPA past the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” And, seeing areas where water and sediment improve over time is equally rewarding. After all, a healthy ecosystem supports healthy communities.

By: Bruce Duncan Wed, 07 Jul 2010 20:47:19 +0000 Thanks for your comments Michael. I hope there will be more stories as the cleanup progresses and that you will continue your interest in what happens to urban waters where EPA is involved.

By: Tanya Wed, 30 Jun 2010 09:29:56 +0000 Officials very seldom speak with people. I think they should a thicket recall for what they borrow high positions. It would put the end to many questions.

By: Bruce Duncan Fri, 25 Jun 2010 03:07:33 +0000 William – Thanks for your comments.

These blogs are designed to be short with a goal to try connect a little on the human side and so will likely not have the depth you mention. I agree with you that government employees should take opportunities to talk to people. People/you pay our salaries, we work for them/you and we have that responsibility to listen. I have found during diving operations, we invariably have the opportunity to talk with people in the area where we might be installing monitoring equipment, collecting samples, or documenting conditions with video. There is usually great interest in hearing about conditions underwater and a lot of questions – after all these are the folks that are fishing, swimming, kayaking, etc. Another valuable opportunity in connecting with people is at public meetings. As an expert in the area of ecological risk assessment I appreciate the learning back and forth that occurs at these meetings when EPA shares its work and findings. And, too, there is great value in talking with local community groups. For example, I was able to meet recently with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and discuss the wonderful visioning project they did with residents, businesses, governments, and users of the Lower Duwamish Waterway (Seattle, WA). What better way to assist a community than help support their own vision!

I am heartened that you would like to learn more about nuts and bolts of what EPA does best. The example you give, clean up levels, generates a lot of interest because those levels need to be protective of human health and the environment, and they are significant determinants of clean up cost. EPA does have protective levels for water and a few for sediment. Determining the clean up levels for other contaminants and media requires a lot of site-specific information and occurs during the remedial investigation and feasibility study. I encourage you to follow events at Newtown Creek via the second link in the blog.

By: Bruce Duncan Thu, 24 Jun 2010 22:27:10 +0000 Thankyou Laura,

You are right, the community would know the most. This blog hopefully will help share the story of Newtown Creek with others and begin to call some attention to EPA’s new Urban Waters Initiative announced last fall by Administrator Lisa Jackson. Those of us involved with moving this initiative forward recognize very clearly the central role local communities have in developing their vision for their nearby waters and adjacent communities and the role of government agencies in helping to support that vision.

You can find more information at:

No, I haven’t dove into Newtown Creek, but I have done my share of underwater investigations in other urban waterways especially in urban bays of Puget Sound, WA. If you click on the first link in the blog you can easily navigate the site and see pictures and some video clips of diving operations. Thanks for your description from the Urban Divers Ludger Balan. It does not surprise me that there is low visibility; the bottom sediments have been described as thick pudding and there is very little flow to move these fine particles, which are easily suspended (as we saw by the prop wash in our boat tour), out of the Creek.

While this waterway and others in the NYC area (e.g., Gowanus Canal) are being investigated and cleaned up I would urge divers to use caution. EPA divers use protective (i.e., drysuits, full face mask) gear and follow a decontamination plan.

As work continues on Newtown Creek look for new postings on the second link above.

Thanks for your comments!

By: Lori Latimer Wed, 23 Jun 2010 06:16:35 +0000 This was an interesting aspect of resources and skills used by the EPA. Thank you for this insight.

By: Michael E. Bailey Wed, 23 Jun 2010 01:15:23 +0000 This is an important story. It sounds like Newtown Creek will be a multi-article story like cleaning up the Hudson was. More stories on the Newtown Creek situation are needed providing more details of what is and what will be going on and how will people be protected from polluted water. But this article serves as a good introduction. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.