Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

In A Major Reversal, Officials Announce EPA Will Pay For Cleanup, Testing Of Apartments In Lower NYC
Joe Torres' Report, ABC Channel 7 Online, May 8, 2002


    (New York-WABC, May 8, 2002) — Lower Manhattan residents who were concerned about their health following the 9/11 attacks got some good news Wednesday, as the government announced it will pay to clean up thousands of apartments. After much debate over the potential health risks of the debris from the toppled WTC, officials announced that the EPA will pick up the tab to have apartments in the area cleaned and tested. Many residents were pleased by the news, but others say it's too little, too late. Joe Torres reports from Tribeca with the latest.
    "What do you want?" ...and, "We'll help you get there?" That is now the open-armed approach of the EPA to residents in lower Manhattan. With nearly eight months passing since the attacks, the federal agency is now saying it will clean and test the 31,000 apartments below Canal Street for free.

Jane Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator: "This is not an emergency." Despite those words, the EPA's regional administrator announced that the federal government will now pay for the future cleaning and testing of any lower Manhattan residence, South of Canal Street. All people will have to do is call a hotline that should be in place by June 1st.

Kenny: "What we're doing now should ensure that there is no potential for long-term health risk."

Representative Jerrold Nadler said Wednesday's announcement represents a 180-degree shift in EPA policy. He called the offer to clean individual apartments commendable...

Representative Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan (D): "But unless the clean up is done building by building, as opposed to unit by unit, there will always be a threat of re-contamination."

Christopher Ward, NYC DEP: "To date we have received 218 complaints regarding possible asbestos contamination in apartments, and only one of those warranted a clean up."

Wednesday's news doesn't please everyone. The announcement comes nearly eight months after the collapse of the World Trade Center, and many tenants and building owners already cleaned their apartments.

Keith Durst, Lower Manhattan Resident: "I don't think it does anybody down here a whole lot of good. By now, if you haven't had your apartment cleaned up by now, you're in big trouble as it is, and I think that's going to be the least of your worries."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set aside an unlimited amount of money to fund the EPA plan. But FEMA still isn't sure whether it will reimburse people who already paid for their own cleanup.

Joseph Picciano, FEMA: "They are looking into that, and hopefully we'll have a resolution to that issue. It is a good question, but there's issues of insurance and other factors involved in that."

We're told that a typical two bedroom apartment will take about two to three days to clean. Officials say city certified cleaners will come out and will do more than just the walls, floor and ceilings. We're told they will clean everything in the apartment, including personal items. Tenants will then be asked to sign a release indicating that the cleaning did occur. Lastly, for those who already cleaned their apartment, but want to take advantage of a free air quality test, all they will need to do is call the hotline, which again will be available around June 1st.


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