RIDGEWOOD, Queens (PIX11) – A block in Queens with the dubious distinction of being the most radioactive area in New York City has been added to the list of Superfund sites, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials announced Thursday.
Before a deli, auto body shop and a construction company sprang up along Irving Avenue in Ridgewood, it was home to the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company. In business from 1920 to 1954, ugly reminders of the company are still in the soil in the form of radioactive thorium — a byproduct from years of extracting rare metals from imported sand.
According to the EPA, thorium can increase the risk of developing lung and pancreas cancer, among others. Wolff-Alport simply disposed of thorium waste in the sewers and on its property until 1947.
“By placing the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company site on the Superfund list, the EPA can address the contamination to protect people’s health in the long-term,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator.
The EPA has warned residents and workers that they are at a higher risk of cancer.
The affected areas are from 1125 to 1139 along Irving Avenue, and 1514 Cooper Avenue.
The EPA is now considering possible improvements including placing a “shield” of concrete, lead and steel beneath building floors and on sidewalks, and creating a blocked-off buffer area of land to prevent trespassing.
New York City now has three Superfund sites — the Queens block joins the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek on the list of toxic locations.