During the 1940s, the organization imported monazite sand at its location at 1125-1139 Irving Ave., which contains thorium and small amounts of uranium byproducts. When the company closed in 1954 and went out of business, an EPA document stated that some waste products from the site were disposed into a nearby sewer or buried at the location.
And though an investigation in 1988 showed very low amounts of radiation, since that time acceptable levels have changed.
“These areas that are in violation haven’t done anything,” said Andy Karam, director of Radiological Operations for the city’s Health Department, at a Community Board 5 meeting last week.
He stressed that today’s allowable radiation dose levels had gone done from when the site was first studied.
Karam said a lot of radiation people come in contact with today is natural—including the levels felt at the site on Irving, which now houses an auto-body shop, a construction company and an abandoned lot.
“Everyone who lives on earth is exposed to radiation,” Karam said, listing natural radiation found in the human body to radiation experienced at higher elevations.
However, Karam stressed that while there would be no short-term effects for those working at the site, he said there was a slightly elevated risk for exposure over longer periods.
Local resident and Community Board 5 member Rose Johnson asked what range of time short and long term would mean for those in the exposed areas.
Karam said that for those working in the area for the next few years, there would be no risk. However, for people working at the location over several decades, they could be at a higher risk for various illnesses.
“That’s why we’re looking to clean it up and try to reduce radiation dose rates,” he said.
Still, he added that those risks were relatively low, approximately “1 in 10,000.”
Eric Daly, the Environmental Protection Agency’s onsite coordinator at the Wolff-Alport location, said that as of Aug. 31, the state gave a referral to perform shielding in the area.
On-site, a fence is currently being built around Cooper Avenue to prevent people from entering the abandoned lot, and various types of radiation abatement, including placing steel plates and concrete on the sidewalk to lower radiation levels for workers and customers at Primo Auto Body and Terra Nova Construction, is in the works, according to Daly.
The EPA is also beginning radon testing at the nearby Audrey Johnson daycare center near Cooper Ave.
“We really want to pinpoint those areas,” Daly said, referring to shielding procedures that would help reduce radiation. “This is a way for us to lower any risk that is there.”
Recent surveys have shown that radiation levels have been detected in buildings in the area.
However, no one seems to be concerned—at least right now.
Owner of Primo Auto Shop off of Irving, Alberto Rodriguez, said that while he was aware of the EPA testing, he didn’t see a cause for concern. “If there’s a problem, they will get it out,” he said.