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Critics deride EPA’s WTC site testing
By Graham Raymon, New York Newsday, May 11, 2005
The EPA's plan to sample lower Manhattan and Brooklyn for residual dust from the
World Trade Center disaster was derided Wednesday by critics who say it falls
far short of what is needed.
Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that the new
sampling plan, which was released Tuesday night, takes in a larger area than one
in 2002. They also said it could lead to more extensive testing.
But local environmental groups and elected officials criticized the plan.
"Unfortunately, it appears at first glance that the EPA's long-awaited plan has
been designed in a way that is fundamentally inadequate to determine the true
extent of WTC dust contamination," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan).
Under the plan, dust samples will be taken in 150 buildings out of the 6,000 in
Manhattan south of Houston Street and in portions of Brooklyn. Where WTC
contaminants are found, a cleanup will be offered, the EPA said.
"It i! s a high-priority exercise," said EPA spokesman Michael Brown. "We've
invested thousands of person hours in assuring that the health of those living
in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn is not jeopardized. We have no presupposition
about the results."
The data that is collected will also be used to determine whether a more
extensive assessment of buildings should be done, the EPA said. An initial pot
of $7 million has been set aside for the effort.
But Kimberly Flynn, of 9/11 Environmental Action, said the plan limits cleanup
in less accessible areas, like ventilation systems, and does not order testing
for lead on soft surfaces like carpets and upholstery.
Flynn and other critics also said a system of averaging the amount of
contaminants might lead to fewer buildings being cleaned. And the plan requires
discovery of a WTC "signature" in the dust, which also could limit cleaning.
"I would say that the plan confirms our worst fears and then some," she said! ,
adding that nearly four years after the attack there was still an urgent need to
determine if contaminants exist.
Brown said less accessible areas are part of the study, and averaging "can only
lead to more units being cleaned, not fewer."
David Newman, a member of a panel that will review the plan when its presented
on May 24, said the question of downtown contamination remains important because
there has never been a comprehensive testing effort.
"This is the only major chemical spill in the United States in the past several
decades that has never been evaluated for types and extent of contamination,"
said Newman, of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.
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