Radioactive Ridgewood site may get cleaned up

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THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The EPA is considering making this area in Ridgewood a Superfund site to clean up hazardous radiation contamination.

People that live and work around a radioactive Ridgewood site may not have to worry for much longer.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering making the area inclusive of 1129 to 1135 Irving Avenue a Superfund site to clean up radioactive contamination seeping from underground, and the agency has already taken some steps to ameliorate the problem.

“There are various federal, state and city assessments that have been made over many years regarding this site,” Elias Rodriguez, an (EPA) spokesperson, said. “The current work is being done to reduce people’s potential exposure.”

The Wolff Alport Chemical Company processed and sold minerals containing thorium from the 1920s to 1954 at the site. The area currently houses six businesses, including a deli, a construction company and an auto repair shop.

Since last year EPA officials have been examining the site more frequently. In September they began preparation for shielding operations, putting in concrete, lead and steel under the businesses and sidewalks to prevent exposure to subsurface gamma radiation, which could be harmful to people.

“The testing indicates that there is no immediate threat to nearby residents, employees or customers of businesses,” said an EPA report. “Exposure, however, to this residual radioactive contamination may pose a health threat under certain long-term exposure scenarios.”

The EPA is considering the site for the National Priorities List, which is a Superfund program for the most hazardous sites in the country.

People working in the area had no idea about the radiation, until EPA officials informed them. The agency had some businesses clear out for a few weeks to apply the shielding materials underground. The shielding process is slated to be completed in mid-December, according to the EPA.

“It’s a fresh start,” said Saldio Hernandez, owner of construction company Terra Nova, which has been on the site for about eight years. “It’s an upgrade to our daily working area. It’s been a headache, but we’re happy that this is being done.”

Even though the EPA is considering the site for Superfund status, it doesn’t mean that it will receive the designation. There is no time period for how long it would take to determine.

If the Ridgewood area gets the status, it would be the third active Superfund site in the city, including the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek in Brooklyn.