Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article|
Report criticizes EPA
actions after World Trade Center attack
By Bruce Geiselman, Waste Headline
News, September 1, 2003
WASHINGTON (Sept. 1) -- A new report faults the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency for its response following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attack on the World Trade Center in New York, and that has prompted several members of
Congress to call for federal investigations.
The EPA Inspector Generalīs Office faulted the agency for issuing statements reassuring
the public about the safety of the air outside the Ground Zero area. When the EPA made an
announcement Sept. 18, 2001, that the air was safe to breathe, it did not have sufficient
data and analyses to make such a blanket statement, according to the report released Aug.
21 by Inspector General Nikki Tinsley. "At that time, air monitoring data was lacking
for several pollutants of concern, including particulate matter and polychlorinated
biphenyls [PCBs]," according to the report released Aug. 21.
A definitive answer as to whether the air was safe to breathe may not be settled for years
to come, according to the report. In addition, the inspector generalīs report says the
White House influenced those premature assurances. "The White House Council on
Environmental Quality influenced, through the collaboration process, the information that
EPA communicated to the public through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to
add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones," according to the 155-page
report. However, the report noted the agency is drafting a plan for improving its
communication procedures for emergency situations.
The inspector generalīs report also said that while the EPAīs actions complied with
existing statutes and regulations, they could have taken a more proactive approach
regarding indoor cleanup. The EPA did not assume a leadership role in the indoor cleanup
effort until February 2002 after the city was criticized for its response, according to
Many residents who live near the World Trade Center had returned to their homes, and a
study indicated most of them had not followed recommended cleaning practices, according to
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said they wanted
Congress and Justice Department officials to investigate the EPAīs handling of the
crisis. "That the White House instructed EPA officials to downplay the health impact
of the World Trade Center contaminants due to īcompeting considerationsī at the expense
of the health and lives of new York City residents is an abomination," Nadler said.
However, EPA Acting Administrator Marianne Lamont Horinko defended the agency in a
release, saying the EPA was operating under extraordinary circumstances. "In fact,
this [inspector generalīs] document is infected with the attitude that somehow ībusiness
as usualī conduct should have prevailed," Horinko wrote. "I am extremely proud
of the response that the men and women of EPA made in the aftermath of the World Trade
Horinko described the situation as chaotic as monitors on the scene operated without
electricity and among fire and rescue crews. She also said, regarding the involvement of
the White House Council on Environmental Quality, that the federal government in an
emergency situation needs to speak with one voice.
FAIR USE NOTICE
This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been
specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material
available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic,
environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues,
among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted
material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance
with Title 17 U.S.C. Section
107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research
and educational purposes.
Take me back to learn more