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Federal authorities to remove radioactive material from a site in Queens

The Wolff-Alport Chemical Company Superfund site in Queens, New York.

Clean up efforts coming to NYC

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced great plans for a New York City Superfund site. There used to be a place where radioactive material was processed to develop the atomic bomb, and the federal agency will clean it up. However, the job can take years and will cost around $40 million. It is important for Queens neighbors to know that every business operating in the block will have to vacate the area. Furthermore, this cleaning will include soil and sewers, since everything is contaminated. Luckily, authorities put in place protective measures back in 2012.

There was a company that operated on the site from 1920 to 1954: the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company. This firm was the source of the industrial waste. The company worked for the federal government as part of the top secret Manhattan Project. There, they process monazite sand, obtaining a radioactive element known as thorium. This project led to the first nuclear weapons. These were tested in New Mexico during World War II. Even though the company has since gone defunct, its waste is still taking its toll in the area.

Local businessmen are worried

Sandy Frayman is the owner of the Celtic Custom NYC motorcycle repair shop, one of the business in the affected area. He voiced his concerns: he and others like him are worried about what the future may bring. Moving may be out of the question because if he goes too far away, his business may lose many customers. Furthermore, it is very hard to find similar and affordable spaces in New York City. Several auto body shops, a deli and a Mexican tavern are the business being forced out. However, their owners expect compensation, but Frayman said “it’s like someone gets shot and you put on a Band-Aid”. Mainly because the government will probably not cover higher rents indefinitely. Since the problem was created by authorities, business owners are hoping they own to their mistakes.

Apparently, the government is aware the public is concerned. The federal agency is receiving mail from the public, whether it be email or regular mail. Citizens can call on the phone, too, and even show up to an open public hearing. Said hearing will happen August 16th in a day care center nearby. According to reports, workers from the half dozen business in the block, a warehouse and offices are already protected by some government action.

Last Thursday, the EPA released a statement where they said that there exists no immediate danger for those living and working in the area. They added that the 2012 measures are still protecting the premises. They invested $2 million on radiation shields, including layers of concrete, lead and steel under buildings and sidewalks. This is a relief for everyone involved, since radiation is incredibly harmful. Its effects include cancer and several other life-threatening diseases.

The next step

According to the protocol put in place, the EPA will first investigate the area and raze all buildings. Afterwards, they will start an excavation that will eventually remove over 24,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. Once the evaluation process is completed, the EPA will release an official starting date for the cleanup. [Bloomberg]