Cleaning a Hazard – QNS.com

Cleaning a Hazard

EPA To Eliminate R’Wood Toxic Site

Long contaminated with mercury, a former thermometer factory located behind a home in Ridgewood will soon be demolished as part of a cleanup plan by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The details of the remediation project to be undertaken at 59-44 Summerfield St. were outlined by EPA representatives during a special public hearing held last Wednesday night, Jan. 16, just down the block from the site at the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council.

According to the EPA and Community Board 5, crews will begin on Feb. 4 to take apart a cottage located behind a multi-family home at the location which previously served as a factory which made mercury thermometers between 1900 and the 1950s.

Decades after the factory was shut down, the cottage was being used for residential purposes. As previously reported in the Times Newsweekly, its last residents were vacated from the premises back in August 2011 after the city Health Department conducted testing which found mercury levels higher than standards deemed safe.

The last tenant contacted this newspaper and the city Health Department after finding a broken mercury thermometer while pulling up a rug in the home.

The EPA took over the case and conducted a round of environmental tests at the cottage and in the adjacent backyards and residences. Though there were no unsafe levels of mercury found in the nearby homes, an elevated presence of the toxin was found in the soil.

Exposure to mercury can result in many serious health risks, including various neurological conditions, forgetfulness, tremors and diseases of the kidneys and lungs.

The EPA plan outlined at last Wednesday’s meeting aims to not only eliminate the contamination but also prevent nearby residents from being exposed to mercury in any and all forms as the work progresses.

Reportedly, the interior of the cottage has been treated with a tacky substance designed to reduce the amount of dust generated as the building is taken apart.

Up to six feet of soil will be removed from the cottage footprint, and a minimum of two feet of contaminated soil will be excavated from nearby yards where even trace amounts of mercury contamination is found.

Air monitors have been installed around the location to frequently check for traces of mercury as the work is conducted. The EPA, as it has since taking the lead in the remediation process, will conduct daily soil samples to ensure that the contamination has not spread and will conclude once the excavation and removal of mercury is completed.

All workers on the site will be wearing haz-mat suits and protective gear; a security guard will also be stationed to guard the premises.

The EPA, which is fully funding the work through its Superfund program, will also replace all soil, plants, trees, shrubs and fences removed as part of the process.

Reportedly, the remediation project is expected to take at least three months to complete, weather permitting. Once the work is finished, the cottage site will be sealed off with fencing.

For additional information on the project, email project manager Arlene Anderson at anderson.arlene @epa.gov.

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