Demolition of Ridgewood radiation site buildings mark the beginning of major remediation

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After a chemical company spent over three decades harvesting radioactive minerals from sand and dumping the refuse into the city sewers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to begin a long concerted effort of remediations that have been in the books since 2017.

The EPA and state Department of Environmental Protection plans to begin relocating up to seven business tenants at the former site of the Wolff-Alport chemical company so buildings can be razed and soil excavated.

Not only that, but the EPA is aiming to hold responsible parties to certain financial obligations of the work, one of them bing the city of New York for the contaminated sewers and streets, according to an update from the EPA’ Elias Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said the city is cooperating with their part which pertains to sidewalks, sewers and streets.

The EPA signed a record of decision for the Wolff-Alport site located at 1125 to 1139 Irving Ave. and 1514 Cooper Ave. in 2017  and has been on the government’s radar since 2013 when they began evaluating how to remedy the dangers under the Superfund program.

“The EPA searches for parties that may be legally responsible for contamination at sites that are placed on the Superfund list, and it seeks to obtain commitments from any identified parties to perform or fund  investigations and cleanups,” Rodriguez said. “The EPA has identified the City of New York as a potentially responsible party for a portion of the site that it owns, and we are in discussions with it concerning performing certain activities related to work on its property. As for the remainder of the site, the EPA continues to evaluate viable potentially responsible parties for the site.”

Wolff-Alport operated between 1920 and 1954 on the quarter acre patch of Ridgewood that has since been broken up into six parcels. They worked extracting thorium from imported monazite sand, which contains about 6 to 8 percent of the radiological metal.

The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission ordered it to stop dumping in the sewers in 1947, however, according to the EPA.

Although Radon gas was discovered emanating from a hole in the basement – which was later sealed with concrete – tests came back with radioactive readings below what would be considered a threat, the EPA has said.

Should residents and workers in the surrounding area be worried about their well-being?

According to the state Department of Health, the six parcels of land in a 10-block section showed only 19 cases of cancer from 2005 to 2010. The cancer count was relatively low compared to the sections which sit adjacent to the Wolff-Alport site with each having 34, 26 and 27 cases within the same time frame.

Demolition of the site’s buildings was approved in March and a study of off-site contamination will begin in late summer, Rodriquez said.

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