Colonie Calamity: How NL Industries Supplied WWII Efforts

Spoiler alert: The 2nd act is tragic. Once Henderson and McIntyre had passed along their mine was not functional again until 1958. An embossing company – National Lead Industries had produced popular lead-based paints such as the Dutch Boy line and started operations within Albany, NY on 1130 Central Avenue. 

Early on, they realized that the Hudson River does not flow as well depending upon which section you enter. Since they were trying to complete Henderson’s idea and connect the Opalescent River and Calamity Lake to the upper north sector of the Hudson, a dam was built and operations began to flow.

DU = Depleted Uranium in this case 11,000 lbs of DU oxide spread

The writings were certainly on the wall during this story as NL Industries started dumping toxic waste from the get-go. Around 1941, they purchased a plot of land with a portion of Patroon Lake which they proceeded to dump loads of casting sands, lead and significantly heavy metals. From there, they had one aim: create Warthogs.

A10 Warthog

The NL Nuclear Division received licensed approval from the Atomic Energy Commission to produce radioactive material within the confines of Upstate Albany NY. The depleted uranium material could often be utilized to form the nose of an A-10 Warthog Aircraft. 

Depleted uranium could also be used for ‘pyrophoric’ purposes as munitions/projectiles formed from bullet shrapnel can burn on impact and set the target on fire. Ironically, people continued to return to the Adirondacks to seek titanium that was seemingly so unwanted when it was discovered by McIntyre and co.

A program that exists on government payroll for toxic waste removal will often remain no matter the amount of public backlash. As the federal government sank nearly $50M into the mine and finally built a railroad the full potential of McIntyre and Henderson’s discovery would finally come full circle.

Only thing is: at what cost and for what purpose?

Many times, the material became difficult to contain and would seep out into the public space. While operations continued between 1958 and 1984 in Albany a slight concern was raised in 1979 as wafted uranium particles from incinerator stacks were found in sensitive air filters. Alarming enough as that is, the air filters were located at Knolls Atomic Lab in Niskayuna nearly thirty miles away. 

The thing about incidents like NL Industries, Chernobyl, Norlite is that most of the time when these incidents occur and radioactive leakage pollutes the air it is permanent. The particles may sway from place to place but more often than not these are forever particles. When the material is spread by wind, inhaled or absorbed it can affect the human body, plants, animals, food cycles and life as we know it.

Lack of Advancement

We are not as advanced as a country as many might think. Solar could have been accomplished decades ago and toxic waste disposal continues to incinerate our planet. 

NL Industries spent nearly $200M in cleanup programs before closing their doors in 1984. Their company sold for a measly $10 and their ashes spread along Central Avenue and Yardboro Avenue.

In 1983, Teledyne Isotopes determined 56 surrounding properties required remediation. These processes included residing, excavation, roofing and concrete. Many resources make it difficult to discern death count as it is truly challenging to pinpoint lung cancer inhalant rates per area and time era etc.

The U.S. General Services Administration recently purchased the land for $300,000. Whether or not the area will be turned into usable roadway has yet to be seen.

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