After months of planning, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday that a radioactive Ridgewood site has been added to the federal Superfund list, allowing the agency to further look into the site to reduce radiation levels.
“We often think about Superfund sites as being these shuttered, abandoned areas but what has me concerned is that this is a very densely populated area,” Judith Enck, the EPA’s regional administrator said.
The contaminated address of the site is 1129 to 1135 Irving Ave., where there are several businesses, including a deli and an auto shop. But the site was once used as a nuclear testing facility by the Wolff Alport Chemical Company, which no longer exists. The company processed and sold minerals containing a radioactive material called thorium from the 1920s to 1954 at the site.
The EPA first proposed the site be added to the Superfund list in December 2013. Superfund is a federal cleanup program created in 1980 by Congress to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous waste sites. But even before the proposal, the EPA worked with local businesses and the community to perform tests and installed a shielding material – made out of concrete, lead and steel – under the floors and sidewalk in 2012 in an effort to reduce the amount of radiation coming out of the site. The efforts have so far cost the environmental agency $2 million and the Superfund designation will allow them to have more funding.
As for what the EPA will exactly do with the new funds is still unknown. The rest of this year will be spent putting together evidence and data on the levels of radiation in the area. The agency will then release “a master plan that will be circulated to the community,” Enck said. But, according to the EPA, the community outreach is unlikely to happen this year.
“We want people who live in this area to give us feedback on our plans. And then once we get that back we will alter it based on what people tell us,” she said.
In the meantime, the community shouldn’t be worried about getting cancer or any other nasty side-effects of radiation, according to Enck.
“There is no immediate threat for people in this area,” she said.
The designation makes Ridgewood site the third Superfund location in New York City. The other two sites are the Gowanus Canal and Newton Creek in Brooklyn.
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