Gassed Out in Greenpoint

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NYS Department of Environmental Conservation venting equipment to help clear the air in one of the residences overwhelmed by fumes.

One of the promises of spring is the joy of welcoming fresh air in through open windows.  However, since February several residents in northwest Greenpoint have been inhaling octane enhanced wafts inside their homes via sewer lines. NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) have been looking into the cause and assisting those residents in venting out their buildings. Residents of three houses have had to temporarily relocate. In early May, sewer inspections were conducted and PID readings were taken and recorded. Accumulation of sediment and debris found in some manholes were inhibiting the flow in those sewer lines. These lines were flushed. PID readings were taken again and both manholes on Freeman still had particulate readings, the one nearer Manhattan Avenue was especially high. These lines were flushed again and the PID readings after the second flush were down to zero.

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A map of the area in Greenpoint that has reported 19 incidents of petroleum vapors coming from building interiors.

On May 22nd Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, State Senator Julia Salazar, Council Member Stephen Levin, and North Brooklyn Neighbors met with the NYC DEP and NYS DEC. The agencies reported that two of the three houses that had been evacuated were cleared by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for residents to return home. The remaining building was being worked on last week (as of this writing). NYS DEC reported they had been in contact with all other residents who reported complaints and those odors had dissipated with no further incidents.

However, questions still fill the air. The residents of this area need answers, reassurances, and protections. So far the cause is unknown, though NYC DEP’s vapor readings don’t indicate petroleum. The Greenpoint Oil Spill of the 70s has been ruled out by the government agencies as the culprit, but residents see 30 million gallons of spilled oil as more than adequate fuel for a smoking gun. Also present and future health concerns are on the table. Greenpoint residents see elevated rates for severe illnesses that could be linked to the oil spill in addition to the industrial waste legacy from past manufacturing districts that are now residential.

North Brooklyn Neighbors debuted the Greenpoint-Williamsburg ToxiCity Map in 2015 [when they were known as Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG)] found here: and they are collecting data on the current issue here:

On June 12th from 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. North Brooklyn Neighbors will host the Petroleum Vapors Town Hall at 176 Java St. If you smell petroleum vapors contact 311 or call the DEC Spill Hotline at 1-800-457-7362.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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