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Newtown Creek is a tributary of the East River that forms the border of Queens and Brooklyn, N.Y., and served as water supply for many types of New York City’s founding industries, including refining, processing and shipping oil, as well as for transporting goods to market. As such, the 3.5-mile creek was heavily polluted with hazardous chemicals.
Today, it is one of the most trafficked bodies of water in the Northeast, and is further polluted by the city’s inadequate wastewater system. It fields billions of gallons of wastewater and raw sewage each year.
In 2010, the federal government designated it a Superfund site and five parties, including some of the country’s major gasoline and petro-fuel companies, entered into an administrative order with the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an investigative remedial study—to see what it will take to clean up the site.
David Bridgers JD/MSL’93 serves as common counsel to that group of five parties, keeping them working together to move the study forward in a way that is fair to his clients, while acting as an outside voice for the group with the EPA and the City of New York.
“I try to make sure we’re advancing the group’s common interest. They have overlapping interests and they have interests where they have disputes,” Bridgers says. “There’s times I look like a lawyer, but a lot of times I’m more providing strategy and figuring out group dynamics. I deal with multiple disputes a week, that range from the silly to the profound. What it calls on is everything you’ve learned as a human being.”
The goal is to come to a record of decision by 2023, so Bridgers will have spent more than a dozen years studying this problem.
“I am a litigator, but this really has changed how I approach all that. I’m much more intuitive and seeing what I do as solving problems. There was a time, I thought I knew what a lawyer does. now I am a problem-solver who happens to have a law degree.” Bridgers