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News Releases from Region 02

EPA to Remove Threats from Radiological Contamination at Superfund Site in Queens, N.Y.

Cleanup Proposal Includes Relocating Commercial Businesses, Demolishing On-Site Buildings and Removing Contaminated Soil

07/27/2017
Contact Information: 
Elias Rodriguez (rodriguez.elias@epa.gov)
212-637-3664

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company Superfund site in the Ridgewood section of Queens, N.Y. on the Brooklyn/Queens border. The EPA has identified several buildings on the site, as well as soil and sewers, that are contaminated with radioactive material from past industrial activities. Because of earlier EPA response actions, and those of state and city agencies, there is no immediate threat to nearby residents, employees or customers of businesses along Irving and Cooper Avenues. In late 2012, the EPA used its emergency response authorities to reduce on-site workers' and the public’s potential exposure to the radiation.

Today’s comprehensive cleanup proposal addresses potential long-term risks through a combination of response actions, including permanent relocation of commercial businesses, demolishing contaminated buildings, excavating contaminated soil, and cleaning/replacing contaminated sewers.

“The EPA has used the Superfund program to successfully address shorter term risks posed by the radiation at this site, and this proposed plan moves us closer to a permanent fix that will protect those who live and work in the area over the long term,” said Catherine McCabe, Acting Regional Administrator. “While we recognize that relocation will be a stress on these businesses, we are weighing that against the long-term risks from radiation, which include an increased risk of cancer. EPA believes that this proposal offers the best course of action.”

The now defunct Wolff-Alport Chemical Company operated from approximately 1920 until 1954, processing imported monazite sand and extracting rare earth metals. Monazite contains approximately 6% to 8% thorium, which is radioactive. Until 1947, the company disposed of thorium waste into the sewer and on its property. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission ordered the company to stop those practices in 1947.

The former Wolff-Alport Chemical Company property is located on Irving Avenue between Cooper Avenue and Moffat Street in Ridgewood. Today, the main property includes six parcels of land with five buildings that house several small businesses, office space, and warehouses.

The EPA assisted New York State and New York City in conducting radiological surveys in the area. These surveys identified waste material and radioactivity throughout the property, beneath adjacent public sidewalks and streets and in nearby sewers above levels expected to be found in a comparable urban area. The EPA, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health are working together to reduce potential long-term exposure to radiation from the site.

In August 2012, the EPA began to assess the site and determine if immediate cleanup work would be necessary. The EPA used the results of this sampling to take steps to protect people from exposure in the short-term. At Intermediate School 384, radon gas was observed originating from a hole in an unoccupied storage area of the basement. The EPA sealed the hole with concrete. Follow-up sampling results showed levels below the radon action level established by the EPA. Subsequent radon and soil sampling at the school and a nearby daycare center show that there are no impacts to these buildings from the site; therefore, the original detection in the school basement is not believed to be site-related.  At one of the on-site businesses, the EPA installed a radon mitigation system that reduced radon levels to below the level of concern. Other EPA actions at the site have included the placement of concrete, lead, and steel shielding on top of several building floors and on a sidewalk to reduce potential exposure to workers and the public.

Today’s proposal by the EPA includes:

  • Permanent relocation of five commercial businesses
  • Demolition of all contaminated buildings at the site
  • Cleaning/replacing contaminated sewers
  • Excavation, removal and off-site disposal of an estimated 24,300 cubic yards of contaminated soil, sediment and debris

The EPA will support and assist the on-site tenants with the relocations.

The EPA has spent about $3.5 million to date, and the proposed cleanup is estimated to cost $39.4 million.

The EPA encourages public comments on its proposed cleanup options. The EPA will hold a public meeting on August 16, 2017 to explain the cleanup proposal. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Audrey Johnson Day Care Center, 272 Moffat St., Brooklyn, N.Y. Comments will be accepted until August 28, 2017. The EPA will review all public comments and prepare detailed responses to them.

Written comments may be mailed or emailed to:

Thomas Mongelli, Remedial Project Manager

U.S. EPA, 290 Broadway, 20th Floor

New York, N.Y. 10007

E-mail: mongelli.thomas@epa.gov

The cleanup proposal is also available at: www.epa.gov/superfund/wolff-alport

The Superfund program is a cornerstone of the work that the EPA performs for citizens and communities across the country.  On July 25, 2017 Administrator Pruitt accepted recommendations from the task force established on May 22, 2017 to revitalize the Superfund program.  “My goal as Administrator is to restore the Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.”

The task force’s recommendations focused on five overarching goals: expediting cleanup and remediation, reinvigorating cleanup and reuse efforts by potentially responsible parties, encouraging private investment to facilitate cleanup and reuse, promoting redevelopment and community revitalization and engaging with partners and stakeholders. Work to prioritize and reinvigorate the program by the task force has been initiated and will be ongoing into the future. The Superfund Task Force Recommendations can be viewed at https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-task-force-recommendations.

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