Superfund sites aren't just canals filled with used toilet water! They're also radioactive autobody shops and, more chillingly, delis in Ridgewood, Queens. Glowing corn nuts for everybody!
The Times reports today that officials have long had their eye on the former Wolff-Alport Chemical Company, which sold thorium to the government for use on the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission until the '50s. Until recently, the threat was considered sufficiently low-level that no decontamination steps were taken. But regulations change, and now, on second thought, the government has decided that radiation levels are significant enough that “workers at the auto body shop and pedestrians who frequently use the sidewalks at this location may have an elevated risk of cancer.”
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has concluded that the contamination lurking "under building structures, beneath the railroad spur property and in/around city sewers," as well as under the sidewalks along Irving Avenue, exposes workers and hapless pedestrians to more radiation than doctors advise. With that, the site, which is bordered by Cooper and Irving avenues, has been recommended for Superfund status.
The Times reports that the owners of two businesses housed on the site—the auto repair shop and the construction firm—said they'd heard no mention of radiation when they began renting their spaces several years ago. The guy behind the deli counter is apparently unconcerned for either himself or the lunch meat. “I don’t worry, because I don’t know exactly how big is the danger,” he said. “If they tell me it’s bad, I’ll be worried.”
But just because a site is recommended for Superfund status doesn't mean clean-up will occur anytime soon. (Exhibit A.) A similarly radioactive site in Jersey waited three years before a plan was selected, and another two before it began. In the meantime, Ridgewood regulars should plan on walking on the other side of the sidewalk, or avoiding that intersection altogether! Then again, sprouting an additional, green-tinted forefinger would do wonders for your Alien Day Afternoon performance art piece...