International Disarmament Institute News

Remediation of Former Baker and Williams Warehouses

521-527 W. 20th Street, Manhattan, New York, 10011

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 Department of Energy, the Manhattan Project and Atomic Energy Commission “used the Baker & Williams site warehouses for short-term storage of uranium concentrates. This material was generated in Port Hope, Canada by milling African ores” (in NIOSH, 2011, p. 31). Around 300,000 pounds of uranium materials were stored in these buildings between 1942 and 1943, in what is now a trendy area of Chelsea, close to the High Line.

The Department of Energy stated that “Environmental cleanup under the Formerly Utilized Site Remediation Action Program was conducted in 1991-1993 by Bechtel National Inc. This site’s remedial action was certified complete in November 1995” (in NIOSH, 2011, p. 31). In a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, Emshwiller and Singer-Vine offer more details: “federal inspectors in 1989 found radioactive contamination up to 38 times federally allowed levels in parts of the structures…. After hauling off 50 drums of contaminated material recovered from vacuuming, scraping and other work, the government declared the buildings fit for ‘unrestricted use.'”

The warehouses have changed hands several times since 1943, serving a variety of purposes. At the time Emshwiller and Singer-Vine wrote their article, the buildings were “occupied by dozens of offices and art galleries.”

Key documents:

  • Radiological survey of the site, prepared by Oak Ridge Associated Universities in 1990 for the Department of Energy. Download.
  • Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ 1992 verification survey for the Department of Energy.  Download.
  • Bechtel’s 1995 “Certification Docket for the Remedial Action”,  Download.
  • 2011 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report (see page 31). Download.
  • 2018 Department of Energy Fact Sheet. Download.

For more information, read the dedicated Wastelands page for the Baker and Williams Warehouses.  The Department of Energy’s dedicated page for the site includes scans of historical documents from the period of the Warehouses’ use during the Manhattan Project.

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By Matthew Bolton, 2019.

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