Last fall, the EPA proposed adding the property at 1125-1139 Irving Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens to the list of federal Superfund sites. That spot is the location of 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 1950s. It's also currently home to Primo Auto Body Shop, an ice making facility, a construction company, and a deli—and this week, The New Yorker put together an excellent video investigation into the history and current status of the most radioactive place in the city. Check it out below.
Things are worst right now for workers at Primo Auto Body Shop, with the EPA writing“workers at the auto body shop and pedestrians who frequently use the sidewalks at this location may have an elevated risk of cancer.” Judith Enck, an EPA regional administrator, is spearheading the campaign to get the property Superfund status: "I think what's important here is this is right in the heart of the community, where people live and work every day," she says in the video.
"What really sticks with me is when I read the health report, and there was a recommendation that people not lay on their back in the auto body shop, and I just have this concern that all day long a number of guys are underneath a car not suspecting that just coming to work every to do their jobs is potentially causing a health risk for them," she added.
The EPA is expected to make its decision about the area this month, with Enck noting it is "very likely" to happen. While Primo Auto Body Shop might have high enough elevated levels of radiation to warrant immediate action, there's no such luck thus far for neighboring I.S. 384, a public school and daycare center situated just 900 feet from the site.