from the why-are-we-glowing-green dept.
Many are going to ask, "What's so weird about this one corner?" and I'm here to answer.
The end of Irving Avenue, where it meets Moffat Street, in Ridgewood, Queens, is the most radioactive spot in the entire state of New York, and would be the northeast's if not for NJ's McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County (called "the most contaminated base" in 2007 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency).
In 1918, chemical engineer Alcan Hirsch, and his brother, mining chief Marx Hirsch, opened a chemical plant where today sits most of the businesses on Irving Ave's north side. In 1920, they christen it Hirsch Laboratories, and later added the mining company Molybdenum Corporation (aka Molycorp). The Hirsch brothers sold the lab in 1923 to Harry Wolff and Max Alport, who renamed it Wolff-Alport Chemical Company, but continued their mining operations, and supplied W-A Chemical with the rare-earth metals needed to produce a huge list of products.
The plant processed Monazite sand, which, when treated with Sulfuric Acid, separates into the rare-earth Sodium Sulfate, but also the radioactive waste known as Thorium Pyrophosphate.
It wasn't till the United States' nuclear weapons program in 1942, known as the Manhattan Project, that Thorium became useful. Until 1947, when the Atomic Energy Commission began to purchase the fertile heavy element from Wolff-Alport, and for the full 20-years prior, the Thorium waste was simply dumped into the area's sewers.
"Thorium waste dumped into the area's sewers." Amazing.
Heavy metals contaminate ground and surface waters from a variety of sources such as industrial effluent or fertilizers or pesticide applications. Cadmium and lead are the most common and toxic metals found in aqueous environments. They are persistent, they migrate, they accumulate in biological tissues, and they are carcinogenic. Removing these metals effectively and cheaply has been a big environmental challenge. There are a number of approaches to remove them including reverse osmosis, ion-exchange, chemical precipitation, coagulation, electrochemical treatment, and physical adsorption. Of these, adsorption is seen as very promising due to it being cost-effective, widely available, and easy to implement. There are a wide variety of adsorbent materials from the mundane (activated carbon, diatomaceous earth, polymers, etc.) to the exotic (carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide), but biochar has shown to be very efficient and cost-effective.