International Disarmament Institute News

Radium Chemical Company, Inc., Former Superfund Site

60-06 27th Avenue, Woodside, Queens, New York

This profile is part of a series on sites formerly associated with US nuclear weapons development and production in New York City. For an overview of all the sites, click here.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, p. 160), “Beginning in 1943, the Radium Chemical Co. supplied most of the radium required for the Manhattan Engineer District. Combinations of material supplied and/or mixed by the Radium Chemical Company included radium bromide and radium bromide mixed with powdered beryllium. Brass was also used. … The facility was in operation as late as the 1980s. In 1987, the New York State Attorney General issued a Stipulation and Order intended to result in the ultimate decontamination of the facility. Decontamination was initiated in 1988, by the State of New York. Documentation reviewed indicates there is a potential for residual contamination outside of the covered period, which in part resulted from contracted work with the MED/AEC, and would be indistinguishable from non-AWE work residues.”

The site was added to the EPA’s National Priority Listing as a Superfund Site and “In the late 1980s approximately 100 curies of radium needles were removed which were most likely not AWE related. The EPA then selected the final site remedy. This consisted of partial decontamination of the building, followed by its complete dismantling and disposal in appropriate facilities. Cleanup actions began in November 1990 and all work was completed in July 1994” (NIOSH, p. 160).

According to the EPA ,“The initial emergency response action resulted in the removal of 118.6 curies of high activity waste and 188.9 millicuries of low activity waste from the site. The long-term remediation involved the complete dismantling of the contaminated building, which resulted in the off-site disposal of approximately 812 tons of radioactive soil and debris, 92 tons of radioactively-contaminated hazardous wastes, 862 tons of uncontaminated masonry and concrete building debris, and the recycling of 45 tons of elemental lead and 20 tons of structural steel. The initial removal of radium sources and the subsequent decontamination and dismantling efforts have eliminated the potential for exposure to radioactive materials at the Radium Chemical site.” It is no longer a Superfund Site.

Key documents

For more information, read the dedicated Wastelands page for the Radium Chemical Company, Inc. The Department of Energy’s dedicated page for the site includes scans of relevant historical documents.

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By Matthew Bolton, 2019.

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