Elevated Levels of Radium Found in Area of Fresh Kills

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The New York Sun

A radiological survey of the city conducted by the Department of Energy on behalf of the New York Police Department uncovered an area in Fresh Kills Park on Staten Island with high levels of radium, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office.

The NYPD paid the Department of Energy about $800,000 — most of it in the form of grants from the Department of Homeland Security — to conduct the survey in August 2005 so the city would have a radiological baseline against which future surveys could be tested. The baseline could help the city discover suspicious spikes in radiological activity such as would be associated with the construction of a “dirty bomb,” the report says. The survey found 80 hotspots in the city, but the one-acre section of the park, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, was singled out for an investigation by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Investigators found small pieces of rusted metal — possibly remnants of industrial equipment — that had presumably been dumped in the park before it was taken over from the city by the National Park Service in 1972, a spokesman for the National Park Service, Brian Feeney, said. The Environmental Protection Agency recommended a more in-depth survey be done of the area, but did not identify any immediate health risks, he said.

“The public has never been allowed in that area,” Mr. Feeney said. “You couldn’t walk into this area if you wanted to. You would have to cut your way into this.”

The radiological survey, conducted by a helicopter outfitted with radiation equipment and computers, was the first such survey conducted of a major American city.Yesterday’s report advocated the wider use of the surveys to help prevent terrorist attacks, and also to have data that would be helpful in aftermath of a nuclear attack.

Rep. Vito Fossella, a Republican of Staten Island, is planning a meeting between city and state agencies “to develop a plan of action to test the area, learn the extent of the contamination, and remediate it if it poses a public health risk,” he said in a statement.


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