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Asbestos on Some Fire
Vehicles Exceeds Limits
By William Murphy, Newsday
Staff Writer, May 21, 2002
Some city firefighters have been riding around for the past seven
months in vehicles that contain asbestos residue, probably from the World Trade Center,
that exceeds federal levels, officials said yesterday. An independent testing laboratory
found asbestos levels in three vehicles used at the World Trade Center that greatly exceed
federal limits, the Uniformed Firefighters Association said.
The Fire Department, which had insisted as late as last week that there
was no health risk, said yesterday that all the rigs would be cleaned under federal
decontamination standards. "We just got confirmation from FEMA [Federal Emergency
Management Agency] that they will pick up the cost of the cleaning," department
spokesman Frank Gribbon said.
Gribbon said all 200 pieces of fire equipment that responded to the
World Trade Center will be cleaned by a contractor the department plans to hire. The
cleaning is expected to cost about $2 million.
The most contaminated fire rig was the Collapse Unit, a specialty
company based in the Bronx, which had 6.3 fibers per cubic centimeter, according to tests
conducted by Public Service Testing Laboratories, based in Woodside. The federal standards
for asbestos exposure is 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeters.
Tests on two other units - Ladder 12 of Manhattan and a back-up unit
from Maspeth's Hazardous Materials Unit - showed asbestos levels at 1.3 parts per cubic
centimeter, the laboratory report said. "Basically, it's over the acceptable limit
and all state, city and federal regulations apply," said Stephen DiMartino, the
assistant technical director for the company.
The firefighters union said it had complained for months that the
various firefighting units at the trade center were never decontaminated properly. The
union said most of the cleaning consisted of firefighters hosing down the rigs or blowing
dust off with air pressure from personal air tanks. "I keep getting told by the
department that the air quality is acceptable within [federal] limits, but I have all
these guys complaining about respiratory problems," said Thomas Manley, health and
safety coordinator for the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
"I'm being told by the job [Fire Department] that they don't have
the money," Manley said earlier yesterday.
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