There have been a number of reports of oil slicks or spills in the East River and in the streets of Brooklyn after yesterday’s flooding. Some examples from Twitter:

The odds that there was a significant spill are small. As clean-water group Riverkeeper notes:

The impact of Sandy’s storm surge is enormous, causing widespread pollution of the Hudson River and New York Harbor by a variety of toxic chemicals, including petroleum and fluids from cars and boats; contaminants from flooded subways, roads, parking lots and tunnels; and contaminants washed from shoreline industrial sites, as well as commercial and residential buildings.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Oil sheens and debris have been observed — everything from 55-gallon drums and quart-sized containers of transmission fluid, to wrecked boats and swamped vehicles with leaking fuel tanks. Just about anything that can float is being observed.

In other words: There’s certainly contamination of New York waterways. But it’s most likely from detritus and spillage washing from land into the water. It’s pollutive and it’s bad news — but it’s better than a ruptured storage container or pipeline. Bear in mind that Monday afternoon the city’s most-polluted waterway was flooding its boundaries. The flooding only got worse in the evening.

Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve put in a call to the Department of Environmental Protection. We’ll update this post once we hear back from the DEP.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.