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Nadler Says Workplaces Neglected In World Trade Center Dust Cleanup
By John Herzfeld, BNA
Daily Environment Report, February 11, 2003
NEW YORK--Conditions in workplaces and other indoor spaces near the site of the
destruction of the World Trade Center are still being neglected nearly a year and a half
after the disaster, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Feb. 10. Renewing previous
assertions that the Environmental Protection Agency had failed to assume its legally
required leadership role in the cleanup, Nadler contended that EPA officials had
"lied about knowing who is in charge" of cleaning up dust contamination in
indoor spaces. At a news conference, he presented evidence he said showed that agency
officials "have finally admitted" that EPA is legally responsible for the indoor
When EPA announced an interagency cleanup plan in May 2002, Nadler maintained that the
step was an overdue "reversal" of the agency's earlier deference to the city
Health and Environmental Protection departments (91 DEN A-4, 5/10/02 ). But EPA Region II
Administrator Jane M. Kenny suggested then that the agency's delegation of specific
responsibilities to the city did not mean that it had given up its leadership role.
At the news conference, Nadler presented testimony given by EPA Assistant Administrator
Marianne Lamont Horinko at a Jan. 6 administrative law hearing on a challenge to the
agency's December 2000 dismissal of Hugh Kaufman as an investigator in its ombudsman's
office. In that testimony, Nadler said, Horinko "admitted under oath that the EPA is
indisputably legally responsible for all hazardous material testing and remediation
indoors after a terrorist attack."
Critics of the agency's response to the disaster have argued that EPA was not assuming its
legally mandated role under the National Contingency Plan and a 1998 presidential decision
directive (PDD 62) for responding to acts of terrorism. Nadler maintained that Horinko's
testimony contradicted statements by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman that the
question of responsibility was "murky." Nadler also said the city Department of
Environmental Protection had mishandled its responsibilities after having been
"illegally placed in charge" by EPA.
Presenting data obtained under a freedom-of-information request by the New York
Environmental Law & Justice Project, Nadler said the city had received indoor
environmental quality reports from only 218 out of 1,900 downtown buildings below Canal
Street. Even those replies to a Feb. 12, 2002, city request to landlords included many
incomplete or inadequate reports, and DEP "has not issued a single citation" for
failure to respond to the request, Nadler said. In one instance, he reported, a landlord's
reply consisted of simply reporting that the building's windows had been closed during the
disaster and there had been "a minimum" of dust infiltration.
Nadler also argued that many other buildings north of Canal Street and across the East
River in Brooklyn had been subjected to the trade center dust plume but were not covered
by any cleanup plan.
In an EPA statement, Kenny denied that the agency's policies have stood in the way of
proper cleanup. "As EPA has stated from the start, any indoor space--residential or
commercial--that was impacted by the collapse of the World Trade Center, should have been
properly cleaned using the techniques of wet wiping, wet mopping, and vacuuming with
specially equipped HEPA vacuums," she said.
Preliminary results of a study the agency is conducting of those techniques "find
them to be very effective in removing dust and debris, and reducing the risk from any
residual dust becoming airborne," Kenny said. She added that EPA "has
consistently recommended" professional cleaning for residential and commercial spaces
that were "significantly impacted."
Restating the agency's position that "the long-term risk from exposure to residual
dust from the World Trade Center is low," Kenny said EPA has been conducting an
indoor cleanup program "to provide lower Manhattan residents with the issurance that
their homes have been properly cleaned." Initial testing results found that asbestos
levels for "only 17 of the nearly 1,600 apartments" in that program exceeded a
"very stringent health standard" being applied, she said.
Kenny said EPA, together with the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had
focused on residential cleanup "because lower Manhattan residents are most in need of
assistance." She added that "families spend the majority of their time in their
homes" and many households "had only limited ways to pay for cleanup
services." She also cited the availability of "a variety" of assistance
programs for commercial establishments and private insurance held by many commercial
building owners to cover cleanup costs. In addition, she said, the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration will investigate worker complaints.
Officials of the city DEP could not be reached for comment.
'Evasion and Delay'
The eighth congressional district of New York, which Nadler represents, includes the trade
center site, surrounding West Side communities, and part of Brooklyn. His complaints about
EPA and city environmental response led to a Feb. 11, 2002, Senate field hearing where
city officials pledged new steps to address the indoor air issue (29 DEN AA-1, 2/12/02).
Workplaces have been left out of the EPA cleanup plan without any apparent scientific and
legal basis, charged Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for
Occupational Safety and Health, a union and public health group. He said his group's
inquiries to the agency "have been treated with evasion and delay bordering on
In the absence of regulatory pressure, some employers have "acted responsibly"
to deal with contamination issues and others have not, Shufro said at the news conference.
"We are here to demand that EPA revise its plan and include workplaces as a necessary
and integral part of its program."
Problems in Downtown Manhattan
Arguing that downtown Manhattan continues to show signs of workplace contamination despite
official assurances that the area's air is safe to breathe, Nadler was joined by union
representatives complaining of inadequate workplace leanups, workers with lingering
respiratory illness, and business owners who said their insurance recoveries have been
blocked by EPA's position on the risks of the contamination. "We cannot again bury
our heads in the sand," Nadler said. "Just because we cannot necessarily see the
contaminants of concern, that does not mean they aren't still there and does not mean we
should go back to business as usual."
Among the workplaces where contamination remains a concern, the union representatives
said, are the relocated New York office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a
Manhattan community college, and several of the city's firehouses. "In the eyes of
the world, we're heroes, but in EPA's eyes, we're nothing," complained Rudy
Sanfilipo, a Uniformed Firefighters Association trustee. Nadler further warned that
failure to properly test and remediate the area will open the city and state to
"tremendous future financial costs" from legal liability for occupational
disease, as well as related lost productivity.
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