The Statue of Liberty, star of a Fourth of...

By ESTHER PESSIN  |  May 8, 1986
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NEW YORK -- The Statue of Liberty, star of a Fourth of July bash for her 100th birthday, has a bad complexion -- possibly worsened by restoration workers urinating on the national monument, officials said Thursday.

The Lady of Harbor -- the symbol of freedom to millions of immigrants arriving in the United States -- quite simply looks dirty and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Pollution from the borough of Manhattan and severe northeast winds have sullied her left cheek, neck and upraised arm, officials said.

Adding insult to injury, workers who did not want to bother to make their way down the 151-foot statue to go to the bathroom may have urinated on the national monument, causing minor damage to Lady Liberty.

Robert Balboian, a copper corrosion consultant to the National Parks Service whose time was donated to the restoration project by his company Texas Instruments of Attleboro, Mass., acknowledged that officials had asked him to investigate the problem of urination on the statue.

But he said he reached 'no conclusions.'

Officials are now somewhat concerned about how Lady Liberty will appear under the glare of cameras at the Fourth of July extravaganza to celebrate her 100th birthday. Some visitors have reportedly alreadly complained.

'When you see the unveiling of the statue, it is not going to look very nice because of the darkening on the left side,' Balboian said.

Lady Liberty is undergoing a $66.3 million facelift to ready her for a huge birthday bash to be attended by President Reagan.

But the Lady of the Harbor will not look like a fresh-faced debutante at her party.

Officials said restoration workers could not clean the black streaks on her left side.

'We discussed cleaning it down to shiny penny but we decided not to do it because it would bare the copper to corrosive elements and that is the wrong thing to do,' Balboian said.

He said the problem began in the 1960s when pollution began to eat away at the statue's left side.

'The left side faces Manhattan and it's (the blackening) caused by pollution from Manhattan -- acid rain, acid snow, acid fog, dry deposition of acid particles, all of these things combining with the northeast winds impinging on the west side,' he said.

He said Lady Liberty changed color after starting a copper-brown. Copper when exposed to the elements first turns black, then green, he noted.

The streaks on her face, neck and arm are actually the black layer usually covered by the green outer skin, he noted. Pollution eroded the green layer in those areas, he said.

He added that removing both the green and black layers would expose the statue to a dirtier environment than she began life in 100 years ago and could ultimately destroy the monument.

Coal tar, used for water-proofing, and paint also mar the monument's natural beauty, said John Robbins, an historical architect for the National Parks Service.

But the dirt has been fading over time and it does not pay to scrub it, he added.

Reagan will unveil the restored statue July 3 and the world's largest display of fireworks and a parade of tall ships are among the events planned for a weekend of festivities.

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