Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article|
Officials Prod EPA
- Urge Cleanup of Apartments Near WTC
By Margaret Ramirez, Newsday Staff Writer, March
Responding to increasing concerns about contaminated air and dust
inside lower Manhattan buildings, several city officials Friday demanded that the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency test and clean up apartments near Ground Zero. The request
came during a special City Council hearing on the environmental response to the Sept. 11
A frustrated City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Forest Hills) told a
panel of federal and city environmental officials that they had failed to help residents
clean up dust that could contain asbestos, fiberglass and other toxic substances.
"We're looking at apartments that probably never should have been reoccupied. We're
looking at novices that are cleaning this up with wet rags and wet mops. I'm just not
happy with novices cleaning up toxic materials," said Gennaro as a crowd of residents
in the audience applauded.
At the hearing, several dozen residents, as well as parents whose
children attend schools in lower Manhattan, wore surgical masks and held up signs that
said, "Stop Poisoning Our Kids," and "Protect the Living."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg Friday signaled that the city may be taking a
more active role in the matter when he and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the
formation of a new Downtown air quality task force. The task force will be led by the
Office of Emergency Management and will set up a hotline to answer questions and provide
information on environmental conditions of Downtown Manhattan.
"Public confidence in the air quality around the World Trade
Center site is essential to the revitalization and economic growth of Downtown," the
mayor said. "We cannot attract residents and businesses back into lower Manhattan
unless they know they are safe."
After a Senate hearing last month on World Trade Center air quality,
EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman set up an Indoor Air Task Force. EPA officials
initially said they had not conducted indoor testing because the city had taken that
At Friday's hearing, Kathleen Callahan, regional director of the EPA's
division of environmental planning and protection, said the federal agency was considering
using Federal Emergency Management Agency money for indoor testing and clean-up. Callahan
would not confirm when or if indoor testing and clean-up would begin.
"I think all the agencies involved - city, state and federal - are
going to collaborate on what's necessary to assure that people's indoor environments are
safe. And how that is going to be done is still an open question," Callahan said.
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