Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

Fields Calls for Outreach on Residential Cleanup: Survey of Lower Manhattan Residents Finds No Confidence in EPA
Borough president's press release, October 2, 2002

With the deadline extended to December 28, 2002 for residential cleanup in Lower Manhattan, Borough President C. Virginia Fields praised the Environmental Protection Agency for the extension and said now is the time to do a better job getting the word out about the program to increase participation. After an extensive survey of residents in Lower Manhattan, Fields asked EPA Director Christie Todd Whitman for a meeting to address the lack of confidence residents have shown in the cleanup effort after 9/11.

The survey of more than 700 residents conducted by the Borough President> '> s office found that 75% thought the air contained toxins. In interviews with the residents, they expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the EPA cleanup effort and complained about the difficulty obtaining information or signing up for the free cleanup offered by the EPA.

"The federal government has either failed to adequately clean the area or they have failed to communicate their process to the residents," said Fields. "Either way, the federal government has not done enough to make residents feel they are safe in their own homes. With the deadline extended, we must now work to make sure residents are getting the information they need."

In a letter to EPA Director Christine Todd Whitman, Fields wrote," much more remains to be done, especially to restore Lower Manhattan constituents' trust and confidence in government." Fields said residents surveyed showed a profound "lack of trust in EPA's assertions about air quality and frustration with the voluntary clean-up program."

Their frustrations range from the lack of systematic interior cleanup, which residents believe will result from the voluntary nature of the program, to the difficulty and delay encountered by those who request cleanup. Additional issues include lack of access to accurate information, fear that construction will begin before the cleanup is complete and the need for building managers to apply for common areas in the building to be cleaned. Some have requested clean up and not heard back from the EPA.

Of the approximately 30,000 apartments in Lower Manhattan only 4,000 have requested cleanup. "Our survey of residents has shown considerable confusion about this program and a profound lack of confidence with the EPA. Clearly, a better job can be done with this," Fields concluded.

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