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9/11 test flip-flop: EPA to check 30 buildings for debris
By Deborah Kolben, Daily News Writer, May 12, 2005

Pressured by residents and lawmakers, the federal government reversed itself yesterday and will start testing for World Trade Center-related debris in Brooklyn.

But the Environmental Protection Agency plans to test only 30 buildings in the borough.

"That's just a fig leaf to say that they're doing something," blasted City Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights). "That's not going to give a picture of the contamination in Brooklyn."

Critics attacked the EPA earlier this year after officials announced that Brooklyn would not be included in a plan to clean up contaminated debris despite the thick cloud of toxic ash that rained down on the borough after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The agency reversed its decision and announced that it would test a half-square-mile area of Brooklyn in addition to lower Manhattan.

"They asked us to sample in Brooklyn and EPA is filling that request," said EPA spokesman Michael Brown.

"Thirty buildings is all we need to sample to have an understanding of all the buildings in the area."

The Brooklyn testing site will stretch from Washington to Union Sts. between the East River and Henry St., an area that encompasses 1,300 buildings.

"Once the plan is approved [the EPA] will use a software program that will randomly select buildings," Brown said.

The sampling will include a mixture of apartment buildings, brownstones, fire stations and factories, he said.

Testing could lead to efforts similar to those in lower Manhattan, where the government cleaned up more than 4,000 apartments.

The latest draft plan also includes testing 120 more buildings in downtown Manhattan, stretching up to Canal St.

"A plume of smoke hung over Brooklyn for three solid months ... there's every reason to assume that Brooklyn was affected in the same way as Manhattan," said Yassky, who wants more buildings tested.

The plan should be completed in early summer and testing would begin soon after.

If World Trade Center-related dust is found, apartments or entire buildings could be eligible for cleanup.

"This is a step in the right direction," said Yassky.

"Thank goodness the EPA finally acknowledged that downtown Brooklyn was a victim of Sept. 11."

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