Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

EPA'S Dust Storm
By Sam Smith, New York Post, May 12, 2005

Nearly four years after 9/11, the federal government will test buildings in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn for remaining contaminants from the World Trade Center collapse, it was announced yesterday.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it will sample 150 buildings to determine if cleaning is needed.

Critics blasted the plan, saying it will ignore many potentially contaminated buildings and fail to clean all the toxins found.

The EPA insists its plan is valid.

"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 assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Research and Development.

Additional testing was recommended by an expert advisory panel set up in the aftermath of a 2003 inspector-general report that was critical of the EPA's response to 9/11.

The panel, made up of government officials and scientists, convinced the agency that earlier EPA testing did not ensure WTC dust is out of ventilation systems and other parts of buildings.

The draft sampling plan, released Tuesday night, relies on building owners volunteering to have their property sampled.

The EPA will test for a "signature" mix of chemicals that constitute WTC contamination.

But some members of the panel, along with a coalition of residents and labor groups, say the new EPA plan is weak. They contend that by relying on voluntary access, buildings that should be tested will be ignored.

"While we are pleased the EPA agreed to test workplaces, as well as residences, that is a hollow promise if landlords can bar access for testing," said panel member David Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

The critics also say that the dust "signature" the EPA hopes to use is too narrow; that even in buildings where contaminants are found, cleaning will be insufficient; and that the EPA's plan to average out a building's test results will water down the findings.

A spokesperson for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who helped establish the panel, said that, at first glance, the plan appears inadequate.

"I continue to have serious concerns," Clinton said in a statement.

The EPA will take public comments on the plan May 24 at its expert-panel meeting.

The agency says it hopes to finish the plan by mid-summer and begin testing soon after.

Copyright 2005 NYP Holdings, Inc

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.

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