Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

EPA Doubles Sampling Area in Search for Toxic Trade Center Dust
By David M. Levitt, Bloomberg News, May 12, 2005

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will double the area it examines for toxin-laden dust left behind by destruction of the World Trade Center, agency officials said, following congressional complaints that possible contaminated areas were being overlooked.

The testing, originally confined to lower Manhattan, will be expanded east into Brooklyn, New York's most populous borough, the EPA said in a statement.

The sampling, coming almost four years after the twin towers were leveled, could lead to cleanup efforts like those closer to Ground Zero, where the U.S. government paid professionals to remove traces of asbestos, poisonous metals and other contaminants from 4,300 apartments.

"By conducting this sampling program, we can determine the geographic extent of WTC contaminants that may remain and whether or not they are present at levels of concern,'' said E. Timothy Oppelt, acting EPA assistant research administrator and head of a panel that reviewed the proposal. "If they are, we will clean those units -- entire buildings if necessary -- that pose a concern.''

The original plan was criticized by residents and environmental activists as not being extensive or thorough enough. The new tests, while covering more area, will be limited to asbestos, lead, polychlorinated aromatic hydrocarbons and man- made fibers such as those found in insulation, the EPA said.


"It appears at first glance that the EPA's long-awaited plan has been designed in a way that is fundamentally inadequate,'' U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Manhattan Democrat whose district includes the trade center site, said in a statement posted on his Web site.

A panel of scientists and toxicologists, led by David Carpenter of the State University of New York at Albany, said in January the search should be expanded to include mercury, dioxin and other contaminants. The group also called for testing to be mandatory; the EPA will rely on landlords to volunteer their buildings for testing.

"That is a hollow promise if employers can bar access for testing,'' David Newman, industrial hygienist for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a labor-backed committee, said in a statement. ``EPA must gain access to test buildings near Ground Zero.''

People who live near Ground Zero have complained about elevated levels of asthma and other respiratory ailments that they attribute to World Trade Center dust.

The plan calls for the sampling area to be divided into five zones, with 30 buildings sampled in each zone.

The program is a follow-up to a cleanup program the agency conducted in 2002 and 2003.

The EPA will hear public comment on the plan May 24 at the U.S. Customs House at One Bowling Green in lower Manhattan.

To contact the reporter on this story: David M. Levitt in New York at (1) (212) 893-4765 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward DeMarco at (1) (202) 624-1935 or

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