Not Just Another New York Project – Middlesex Sampling Plant and Municipal Landfill

The Middlesex Sampling Plant and Municipal Landfill facilities were utilized as part of the Manhattan Project to create the atomic bomb. At the time, there were no good ways of dealing with the disposal of extraneous radioactive materials, so they would be stored at the plants where the raw materials were processed. With the high volume of waste involved in processing the 154 tons of African pitchblende ore to generate high-radium-content materials, there was nothing more to do than keep everything in containers or pile up the contaminated dirt. Up until very recently, two massive contaminated radioactive dirt piles were stored at the former site of the Middlesex Sampling Plant on Mountain and South Avenues. The dirt was collected from suburban areas around the Sampling Plant, including a nearby church and a dozen homes in 1984. Since the plant was established in 1943, it took 41 years to acknowledge and gather contaminated dirt at homes and churches. It took another 15 years to start a clean-up project to move the radioactive dirt from the site. The $90 million clean-up project began in 1999 and took more than three years, moving the materials to radioactive treatment facilities in Pennsylvania. If ninja turtles can spawn from radioactive material, I don’t even want to think of the possibilities of the effects contamination on that large a scale can have. Though the barbwire-protected area no longer contains heavy volumes of contaminated soil, there are still various containers and remnants of the Manhattan Project test facilities. It kind of makes you wonder about the implications of large-scale contamination in the suburbs over the course of more than 50 years, and how it changed the people, places, and environments during this time.

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