STATEN ISLAND — Clean-up of land left poisoned by waste from a Port Richmond lead factory will start this week.
The Environmental Protection Agency will begn removing contaminated soil during the first phase of the detoxification of land at the Jewett White Lead Company superfund site, on 2000 and 2012 Richmond Terrace, this week.
The estimated $1.5 million excavation and removal process, paid for by the factory owners, will take up to two to three months, said Mark Gallo, project manager for the site, at a recent community board meeting.
"It took several years to get up to this process," Gallo said at the meeting. "Now we're actually going to be doing some physical removal."
Neighbors of the site said they were glad the EPA started the removal of the soil, said Beryl Thurman, president of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy of Staten Island.
"They are relived that, yes, the clean up has begun on some of the sites," Thurman said. "That site had been contaminated since 1839, it's been a long road with this."
The site was originally a factory for the John Jewett & Sons White Lead Company, which made white lead mostly used in paint from 1839 to 1890, according to the EPA.
During the manufacturing process, lead flakes would fall to the floor without being cleaned, and eventually made their way into the soil, Gallo said.
"Back in those days there were no controls like today," Gallo said, "any waste, on the ground."
For the clean up, the EPA will excavate an estimated 6,000 to 9,000 yards of dirt from the one acre site and replace it with uncontaminated soil. The polluted soil will be transported off the borough to a facility monitored by the EPA, Gallo said.
The clean up will also relocate two bus stops directly in front of the site, one on Richmond Terrace and one on Park Place, Gallo said.
The site changed hands several times over the years, most recently being home to the Sedutto ice cream factory buildings in the 1990s.
After fires eventually destroyed the Sedutto buildings, the land was bought by Perfetto Realty Corporation, who stored construction equipment and materials in the unpaved lot, according to the EPA.
The location was declared a temporary superfund in 2009 after the EPA studied the site and found lead in the soil in 2008.
Several other superfund sites were declared around the same time in the neighborhood, most within walking distance of each other and one across the street from Jewett White, Thurman said.
"All of these sites basically have legacy contaminates that were left over," she said. "The EPA had to declare them super fund sites for remediation and cleanup."
And because of the area's long history of industrialization and factories, Thurman said other sites may have similar contaminants in the soil.
"There is no virgin soil," she said. "Everything's been touched, it's been around the block a few times."
While Thurman said she was pleased so far with the EPA's handling of Jewett White, she wants the other superfund sites in the area to be cleaned soon.
"They all just need to be cleaned up, and hopefully relatively soon," she said.