After a state Department of Health (DOH) official presented a study that concluded there was no evidence linking increases in cancer and birth outcomes with the environmental exposure of Newtown Creek, many residents were upset.
Some felt there needed to be more done to assess the negative health effects of living by the polluted creek.
But Willis Elkins, co-chair of the community group, remained calm through it all.
Wilkins, who also works as a program manager for the Newtown Creek Alliance, a nonprofit organization, said he got involved because he lives in Greenpoint and is interested in environmental issues. He said he feels it’s not a big enough issue for Greenpoint residents “as it should be.”
“It’s not just Newtown Creek, it’s not just the water that presents a hazard to people’s health,” he said. “It’s the industrial nature. A lot of the factories and operations that were around left a burden and legacy of environmental pollution.
“It affects us all,” he added.
Many people at the meeting voiced their concerns about raising families in the area, getting in contact with the soil and air quality.
“We’re talking about health tonight,” he said. “There are numerous problems, not just the creek.”
As the co-chair for the Newtown Creek CAG, Elkins plays an important administrative role, which includes facilitating the meetings and scheduling all of the presenters, such as the DOH scientist who presented last week.
With Newtown Creek currently designated as a federal Superfund site, CAG will gather the surrounding affected communities to see how residents want the creek to be cleaned.
“In the next year or two, it’s a critical time for the community to come and learn more about this and voice their opinion about what we want to see in a cleanup,” Elkins said. “More people need to show up and voice their opinion.”