Clean-up of radioactive A-bomb remnants begins at former Staten Island uranium storage site

This image from SkyFOX shows crews cleaning up radioactive remnants from a site near the Bayonne Bridge on Staten Island.

Decades after World War II, the federal government is finally cleaning up a radioactive slice of history on Staten Island.

The one-acre plot at 2393 Richmond Terrace, just below the Bayonne Bridge, once stored uranium used for the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first atomic bomb.

To this day, radioactive contaminants remain in the soil, said Mario Buonviaggio, the vice president of Port Richmond/North Shore Alliance. 

"It's never good," he said. "They dumped it in unlined barrels. I believe there were over 2,000 barrels that were dumped there and just placed in the dirt and gravel and soil. Nothing was ever built on top of it since."

Video taken from SkyFOX on Monday shows Army Corps of Engineers crews in hazmat suits digging up and removing the hazardous dirt. 

But Staten Islanders say this work is long overdue. It took decades of pressure from local environmentalists to get the federal government to take responsibility. 

Exposure to radioactive elements comes with an increased risk for cancer.

What's most concerning to residents is how long the site was allowed to sit radioactive. Homeowners say they should have been warned, and many are considering whether next steps should be taken in demanding justice.  

"It's going to be totally contained and transported through a designated route outside of Port Richmond. And it should be done … at the end of December," Buonviaggio said. 

The removal action includes excavation and proper off-site disposal of the contaminated soils followed by restoration. Restoration will generally include backfilling, placing topsoil, seeding and planting trees and shrubs.

The site is privately owned, therefore the Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t have a role in determining the future use of the property.