Could the mess at the foot of the Bayonne Bridge get any uglier? With all the trash and the land stripped of vegetation to create a staging area for the Port Authority bridge rebuilding program, it looks pretty bad. But it looks even worse when you hear the rumors about radioactive pollution in the area left over from World War Two and you begin imagining copious clouds of uranium ore flying up in all directions from the construction site.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At a public meeting held this evening by the Port Authority of NY and NJ, at Port Richmond High School, representatives from the authority addressed the issue, when it was brought up by a community member. They said that the PA land underneath the bridge is not the area where barrels of radioactive uranium ore from the Manhattan Project were stored. That happened on the land adjacent to the PA’s land, which has been accepted by the Army Corps of Engineers to be included in their remediation program. The PA public relations people who were there tonight did their best to distance themselves from the problem, and stated that their property has not been tested for contamination, but that they are ready to cooperate with the ACOE if it is felt that more testing should be done. They also said that no excavation will be done on the PA land there, and that it will be used purely as a staging area. They also said that samples of debris and dust will be tested nightly for contaminants (could we have that in writing, please?).
In fact, the ACOE has found radioactive contamination in a fairly limited area of the old Manhattan Project Storage Site, though it was not clear how intensely contaminated that soil is. In this picture, provided by the Port Authority, the area where the ACOE has found traces of uranium radiation in the soil is marked by a dark blue oval. This is an aerial view looking down onto the approach to the Bayonne Bridge in Staten Island. The roadway itself has been colored a light blue, and the silhouette of the Bridge can be seen in the waters of the Kill Van Kull. Just below the Port Authority land under the bridge (marked with a dotted yellow line) is the area in question. Now, are you totally reassured? I didn’t think so.