WOLFF-ALPORT CHEMICAL COMPANY
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The Wolff-Alport Chemical Company Superfund site is located at 1125 to 1139 Irving Avenue and 1514 Cooper Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, New York on the border with Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York. This nearly triangular area covers approximately 0.75 acres and is bound by Irving Avenue to the southwest, Cooper Avenue to the northwest, and a former cabinet manufacturing facility to the east. At present, the property is covered, primarily, with contiguous structures, except for a former rail spur along its edge, which is an unpaved area where tracks are no longer present and is currently used for automobile storage. The on-site buildings contain a delicatessen/grocery, office space, residential apartments, several auto repair shops, and warehousing space.
The Wolff-Alport Chemical Company operated at the site from the early 1920s until 1954, importing monazite sand from the Belgian Congo and extracting rare earth metals from the material. Monazite contains 6-8% or more of thorium. Until 1947, the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company disposed of the thorium waste from monazite sand processing in the sewer and possibly by burial on the property. Recent investigations have indicated that residual contamination still exists on-site and in or around the sewer lines downstream of the facility.
The US Department of Energy notified the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the potential for radiological contamination at the site in September 1987. A preliminary radiological survey was conducted by EPA and NYCDOHMH in February 1988, which confirmed the presence of radiological contamination, but concluded that the levels were below the regulatory limits at the time and, therefore, did not pose a risk to human health. Between 2000 and 2007, several additional radiological surveys were completed at the site by NYSDEC and NYCDOHMH.
The New York City Department of Design and Construction conducted a multiphased investigation of the site between July 2009 and March 2010, utilizing funding from the EPA Brownfields Program. This investigation confirmed the presence of radiological contamination both on-site and in the sewer system adjacent to the site. A February 2012 health consultation conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded that there were potential health risks to on-site workers and pedestrians who frequently use the sidewalks of Irving Avenue near the site due to the radiological contamination.
The site was listed on the National Priorities List (NPL) on May 12, 2014.
What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?
On May 4, 2012, EPA completed a Removal Site Evaluation which recommended response actions and that the site be evaluated for potential listing on the NPL. Between October 2012 and April 2014, gamma radiation surveys were completed, a shielding pilot study was conducted, and concrete, lead, and steel shielding was installed inside three of the on-site businesses and over the adjacent Irving Avenue sidewalk. A layer of crushed rock was also placed as shielding over the former railroad spur portion of the site. This shielding was able to reduce gamma radiation exposure rates between 60% and 95%. A radon mitigation system was also installed within one of the on-site businesses where radon concentrations were found to exceed the EPA action limit of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L).
EPA, New York State Department of Health, and NYCDOHMH also completed a gamma radiation survey of the area surrounding the site within a one-half mile radius, which concluded that there is no off-site exposure to the surrounding community from radiation located on-Site.
After listing the site on the NPL, EPA initiated a remedial investigation/feasibility study (RI/FS) to determine the nature and extent of contamination at the site and to identify and evaluate remedial alternatives. Field work associated with the RI, which was conducted between September 28, 2015 and February 19, 2016, included the collection of soil samples from and gamma radiation surveys of the site and several adjacent properties, installation of groundwater monitoring wells, a sewer system investigation, sediment sampling of the Newtown Creek near outfall point associated with the sewer system adjacent to the site, and radon testing of a nearby school and day care center (the results from the radon testing of the school and day care center revealed radon concentrations between 0.1 and 0.7 pCi/L, which are well below the EPA action limit of 4 pCi/L).
What Is the Current Site Status?
A Record of Decision was signed on September 26, 2017, selecting a final remedy for the site. The selected remedy includes relocation of all on-site tenants, demolition of all on-site buildings, excavation of all contaminated soil and sewer sediment above the remediation goals, jet cleaning or removal of contaminated sewers, as necessary, and off-site disposal of all contaminated soils, sediment, and building materials. The remedial design of the tenant relocation and building demolition components of the remedy was completed in September 2018. Tenant relocation and building demolition activities will begin once funding is available.
The remedial design for the soil excavation portion of the remedy is currently underway. A pre-design investigation (PDI) to further delineate the extent of soil contamination is anticipated to begin in early 2020.
New York City, which owns the sewers, streets, and sidewalks, has agreed to perform the remedial design for the excavation of contaminated soil beneath the streets and sidewalks and the cleanup of the impacted portions of the sewer system. It is anticiapted that a PDI will begin in mid-2020.