Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

Workers to Clear Asbestos Near WTC
By Michael Weissenstein, Associated Press, March 26, 2002

NEW YORK -- Dozens of contract workers in protective suits will spend about two months in lower Manhattan cleaning potentially hazardous World Trade Center debris from surrounding buildings, officials said Tuesday. The solid debris poses no immediate health threat, but city testers found possibly dangerous levels of asbestos on about half of the buildings they examined, officials said. Over time, that solid debris could erode into dust, which could blow into homes and businesses, officials said.

More than 200 buildings in a six-block radius of the World Trade Center site have been found to have caked debris on them consisting of concrete and other materials pulverized when the twin towers collapsed Sept. 11. Many of the buildings were cleaned after the terrorist attack, but rainfall hardened some remaining dust in hard-to-reach spots on roofs and building facades, said Diana Chapin, first deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Environmental Protection.

Of 40 buildings tested, she said, about half had asbestos levels above 1 percent -- the level at which most regulations require cleanup by trained workers in protective gear, including full-body suits and respirators.

"We think that you should just assume that if there's dust and debris, that it's asbestos-containing material," said Kathy Callahan, who directs the Environmental Protection Agency's work in and around site.

The city environmental department expects to receive more than $10.2 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund the cleanup. It should begin in April, involve about 60 workers and take about two months, Chapin said.

The cleanup is one of the first actions taken by twin task forces formed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the EPA in response to concerns about indoor air quality in the surrounding neighborhoods.

On the Net: New York City Department of Environmental Protection:  


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