RIDGEWOOD — A former atomic bomb project site on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border is so contaminated that it requires designation as one of the country's most hazardous waste sites for the government to effectively fix the damage, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled Wednesday.
Elevated radiation levels at the former site of Wolff-Alport Chemical Company — a Manhattan Project site in the 1930s where two businesses currently operate — prompted the EPA to test the area last year, even though officials insisted that radiation levels weren't high enough to cause immediate health problems.
But in their short-term work, EPA officials found such extensive contamination at the site that they are requesting the area be designated a Superfund site, making it eligible for millions of dollars in federal funds for cleanup.
"We'd start with an extensive investigation of the buildings, and we're particularly interested in getting into the sewer system where we can find the extent of the contamination," said Judith A. Enck, EPA's Regional Administrator. She said its actions if the agency approves the Superfund designation. "Then we get to a cleanup plan."
The cleanup could involve a complete demolition of the two businesses on the site, Terra Nova construction and Primo Auto Body, in order to gain underground access to quell the contamination, Enck said. Both businesses have already suffered tough blows in the short-term cleanup, owners have said.
The EPA's work would also include testing radiation and radon levels at the nearby Audrey Johnson Daycare Center and at another intermediate school in the area, Enck said.
Now that the EPA has proposed the designation, the public will have 50 days to comment on the plan before the agency votes on whether to determine it a Superfund site, Enck said. The earliest vote would come in about six months, she noted.
The status would grant the site millions of federal government dollars for cleanup.