Superstorm Sandy, in all of its might, caused 350,000 gallons of fuel to spill into the Arthur Kill, a canal that separates New Jersey from the Staten Island section of New York.
The U.S. Coast Guard gave ABC News an exclusive look by helicopter at the cleanup efforts underway.
"As we got closer to the nascence of the spill, could clearly see the sheen of oil in the water and in some places, the bands of murky sledge indicating the presence of oil. We could smell the acrid stench of petroleum in the air," ABC News' Candace Smith reported.
Rear Admiral Dan Abel talked about the "incredible damage" but said over 150,000 gallons of the oil mix had been collected. He said the spill was likely petroleum, but did not count out a "grab bag" of contaminants could have also run into the water.
Despite the difficult situation, Abel said he was optimistic about the recovery effort.
"I think we're starting to win," he said.