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Staten Island, Environment Exposed: North Shore Home To Two Contaminated Sites

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Among the many environmental challenges Staten Island faces are two contaminated properties on the island's North Shore. NY1's Bree Driscoll filed the following report on what is being done to clean them up.

On the surface, Richmond Terrace appears to be a beautiful site. But what’s beneath is rather ugly.

At 2351 Richmond Terrace, the Environmental Protection Agency found more than 200 times the uranium radiation level required to trigger a cleanup. That was in 2008.

This contamination dates back to the times of the Manhattan Project, when uranium ore was stored at the property as part of the project to build the atomic bomb. Now more than 50 years later, it still sits there untreated.

"It is also just unacceptable to have a radioactive site that is barely fenced off. The fencing is not adequate. It is completely open to the water,” said Miranda Massie of New York Lawyers for Public Interest. “There is no signage to say there is any danger to public health, much less a ‘very dangerous uranium ore spill’ sign.”

Massie says she and community members are considering litigation. The Department of Energy, which is managing this site, says they are “committed to meeting our obligation to clean up the environmental legacy of the Cold War.”
The agency adds that in October it referred the site to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which says it is currently in the process of doing a preliminary assessment of the site.

Richmond Terrace is also home to another contaminated site, this one with lead.

The property was home to the Jewett-White lead factory from the 1840s to the 1920s.

After years of sitting untouched, two years ago the EPA determined there is 12 times the acceptable levels of lead at the site.

"[There is] over 100,000 parts per million. That is like 10 percent lead at depths of two or three feet," explained Walter Mugdan of the EPA.

The site has been closed off and recent testing found high levels of lead in the surrounding community, but the agency says it’s not related to the site. The EPA says it could be coming from other sources, like lead paint in old houses.

However, the EPA is working towards remediation of the site.

"We are going to see to it that that property itself is fully cleanup and fully protected for any future use that it may be put to,” Mugdan said.

Mugdan say study work at the site will begin this summer. with cleanup options presented to the public in early 2011.

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