2017-08-02 / Front Page

Feds Announce Plans For Cleanup Of Radioactive Ridgewood Site

By Liz Goff
Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are determined to begin the long awaited cleanup of a radioactive industrial site in Ridgewood, despite plans by the Trump administration to slash funding for the federal agency by as much as 50 per cent.

The EPA last week announced plans to clean up contamination at a three-quarter acre site formerly occupied by the Wolff-Alpoor Chemical Company on Irving Avenue in Ridgewood. The $39.4 million proposal calls for demolition of several buildings near the site where, 60 years ago, scientists assisted in the development of materials for the Atomic Energy Commission and the Manhattan Project. The chemical company, which closed its doors in 1954, dumped chemicals used in atom-bomb research at the site into nearby sewers for many years, authorities said.

High levels of radioactive contamination found at the site in 2014 prompted the EPA to officially propose that it be added to the Superfund list of the most contaminated hazardous waste sites in the nation.

The EPA has conducted regular testing at the site that now houses an auto repair and body shop, a deli and several other businesses, authorities said. The agency had previously installed shielding material under the floors of the building and the sidewalk to prevent leakage of the contaminants, an EPA spokesperson said.

EPA officials said the five businesses would have to relocate prior to the cleanup due to long-term risks from radiation exposure, including increased risk of cancer. The agency will help business owners with cost of the relocation, officials said.

The EPA conducted a deeper study of the area after the site was added to the Superfund list, including soil from the site that may have been moved or used at other locations, authorities said. Cleanup at the site would include a detailed investigation to determine what chemicals were dumped there, including digging and soil removal, authorities said.

Authorities said it is unlikely that contamination from the discarded chemicals has spread beyond the site, but testing would be done to determine the perimeters of the contamination just to be certain the area is safe.

EPA officials said the agency would now attempt to require those responsible for the pollution to foot the bill for the cleanup. If unsuccessful, the agency will have to compete with other Superfund sites for a limited amount of federal funds to perform the cleanup.

EPA officials are confident that the agency will be able to proceed with the cleanup despite the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts. The project is expected to take several years to complete.

EPA officials unveiled the cleanup plan on July 27, and are now seeking public comment on the proposal.. For full disclosure of the plan or to offer comment go to: www.epa.gov.

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