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EPA in New York

Columbia Smelting & Refining Works Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York

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The site is the former location of a secondary lead smelter called Columbia Smelting and Refining Works (Columbia), and the extent of lead-contaminated soil from the smelter, in the mixed-use neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn, New York.  The footprint of the historic smelter is developed with a baseball/softball field.  The site is within Red Hook Park, a 58-acre park owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks).

Several companies including Columbia operated the smelting plant at the corner of Lorraine and Hicks Streets from the mid-1920s through the late 1930s.  The building was demolished by 1940, and the block was developed with the current ball fields (Ball Fields 5 through 8) and a soccer field (Soccer Field 7) shortly afterwards; the footprint of the old smelter sits atop Red Hook Ball Field 7 and the Hicks/Lorraine MTA bus stop.  Columbia manufactured various types of metals containing high lead concentrations, as well as white metals, alloys (combinations of metals), brass and bronze.  The map in the “Site Information” section shows the block where it was located, which is bordered by Lorraine, Henry, Hicks and Bay Streets.

In 2014, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation referred the Columbia site to EPA, along with almost 40 other potential historic smelter sites.  EPA conducted an assessment of the site, which included soil sampling in October 2014, March 2015 and April 2015 throughout most of Red Hook Park as well as the Red Hook Houses.  Results showed high lead concentrations from the historic smelter at Ball Fields 5-8, and NYC Parks closed these fields to protect public health.  EPA determined that a removal action (cleanup) across this entire block is necessary.  Five other athletic fields were also tested by EPA (Ball Field 9 and Soccer Fields 1, 2, 3 and 6), and results showed considerably lower lead levels, but still some elevated lead concentrations beneath 6” below the ground surface.  Although contaminants concentrations at the fields are not an immediate health concern, a cleanup of the fields is necessary in the long term.  Ball Field 9, but not Soccer Fields 1, 2 and 6, was found to include contaminants from the Columbia facility.  As a result, an EPA removal action (cleanup) will be conducted at Ball Fields 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 as part of the Columbia Smelting and Refining Works Site.  NYC Parks will be completing the removal action Ball Fields 5-9 under formal EPA oversight in accordance with a Consent Order for the Site finalized in July 2016.  The Consent Order is also found in the “Site Information” section of this webpage.

NYC Parks sampled all remaining areas of Red Hook Park and will be remediating all fields in the park over the long term.  Ball Fields 1-4 are undergoing maintenance and are temporarily closed until the grass cover is restored.  Soccer Fields 2 and 3 are closed until the long-term remediation can take place.  Information on the cleanup of these fields can be found on NYC Parks’ website: https://www.nycgovparks.org/about/whats-happening/red-hook-park-remediation.  These fields are not part of the EPA Columbia Smelting and Refining Works site.

EPA and NYC Parks finalized the design for the cleanup of Ball Fields 5-8, which will be cleaned up first and are expected to reopen in Fall 2019.  Once they reopen, Ball Field 9 will be closed for the cleanup.  The cleanup requires a significant planning, engineering and construction effort.  EPA and NYC Parks have held several public meetings to discuss the plans.  More information can be found in the most recent Fact Sheets and in the presentation from the most recent public meeting, posted on this website.