Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

Furor over WTC Lies
By Sam Smith, New York Post, July 18, 2004

Robert Gulack returned to work downtown after 9/11 because federal officials said it was safe to go back. He woke up two days later choking with asthma.
Now, after a blistering memo from an Environmental Protection Agency scientist claiming the city and the EPA withheld data showing the area was actually clogged with asbestos, Gulack is fuming and demanding reparations.

"If these allegations are true, it confirms how reckless the EPA was during this period," he said. "There has to be some kind of compensation. People have been horribly hurt, including innocent children."

Gulack, 50, of Fair Lawn, N.J., a plaintiff in a class-action suit against the EPA, was joined by a chorus of lawyers, federal lawmakers and city officials scrambling to either bolster or discredit the EPA memo.

The memo, distributed within the agency Thursday and reported by The Post Friday, claims the city Department of Environmental Protection, in coordination with the EPA, withheld from the public results from 17 air tests.

"None of this is surprising," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan). "I've been saying the EPA and the city are lying through their teeth about this for years."
"These are serious charges, and New Yorkers deserve a full and immediate response from the administration," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who recently established a review panel to look at the EPA's work post-9/11.

Attorneys representing cases brought by sick workers and residents say the allegations could have a monetary impact on their litigation. "This could support a claim for increased punitive damages," said Jeanne Markey, an attorney in the class-action suit against the EPA. The federal agency says the allegations raised in the memo are "unfounded and absurd."

"The agency had one goal," said spokeswoman Mary Mears, "to see if there was a pattern of consistently high levels of asbestos. EPA's public statements were based on this data, which showed relatively infrequent exceedance."

Mears also says the memo is in error claiming "overloaded" test results many of which, the memo says, were not reported mean the filters were so clogged with asbestos, they couldn't be read. It means, according to Mears, the filter was clogged, but not necessarily with asbestos.

The city DEP, meanwhile, admitted it did not post some data on its Web site because they were gathered prior to the establishment of 20 sites routinely tested and reported online.

It also said the agency had found two examples so far of inaccuracies in the data reported online that were consistent with the memo's accusations. "But to say all this adds up to a grand scheme to conceal information is just false," said the DEP's Charles Sturcken. "We regularly reported exceedances. We never hid that."
Copyright 2003 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved



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