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News Releases from Region 02

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

09/27/2017
Contact Information: 
Elias Rodriguez (rodriguez.elias@epa.gov)
212-637-3664

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its 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 identified several buildings on the former Wolff-Alport property, as well as soil both on and off the former Wolff-Alport property and adjacent 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 took steps under its emergency response authorities to reduce on-site workers' and the public’s potential exposure to the radiation.

The EPA’s comprehensive cleanup addresses potential long-term risks through a combination of response actions, including permanent relocation of commercial and residential tenants located on the former Wolff-Alport property, demolishing contaminated buildings located on the former Wolff-Alport property, excavating contaminated soil both on and off the former Wolff-Alport property, and cleaning/replacing contaminated sewers.

“EPA is taking action to address the unacceptable risk posed by the radioactive material that remains at this site,” said Catherine McCabe, Acting Regional Administrator. “Through the Superfund, we will implement a permanent fix that will protect those who live and work in the area over the long term.”

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

In August 2012, the EPA began to assess the site and determine if immediate cleanup work would be necessary. 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 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 final cleanup plan includes:

  • Permanent relocation of six commercial businesses and the residents in apartments above one business
  • Demolition of all contaminated buildings on the former Wolff-Alport property
  • 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 selected remedy is estimated to cost $39.9 million.

The EPA held a public meeting (photo below) in Brooklyn on August 16, 2017 to explain its proposed remedy. The EPA accepted public comments for 30 days and considered public input before finalizing the plan.

To read the EPA’s final decision, outlined in a record of decision, please visit:

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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