Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

C.B. 1 grills E.P.A. over W.T.C. cleanup
By: Sascha Brodsky August 11, 2002

    A presentation last week on the Environmental Protection Agency's ongoing cleanup efforts near ground zero left some observers unsatisfied. An E.P.A. representative fielded questions at a Community Board 1 Quality of Life Committee meeting July 29 about plans to clean the apartment of any resident who wants it below Canal St. The agency's director of indoor cleanup, Ray Basso, told residents and committee members that work was "going smoothly."
    But former Councilmember Kathryn Freed was unsatisfied with the answer she received when she questioned Basso about the removal of dust from the facade of Independence Plaza North. Basso said that the city's Department of Environmental Protection is coordinating the dust removal and that the E.P.A. had little information about the situation. "There is dust on the facade that still hasn't been tested since 9/11," Freed said. "They are passing the buck." Board member Paul Sipos also complained that the presentation was "not responsive to the community."
    Sudhir Jain, president of the World Trade Center Residents Coalition, complained at the meeting that the E.P.A.'s cleanup plan would only remove asbestos and not other possible contaminants. The E.P.A. has said that removing all of the dust should remove other contaminants but it is looking into the possibility of adding cleanup strategies that would address other contaminants besides asbestos. Jain also said that the agency has done little to let the public know that the cleanup is available.
    The committee passed a resolution that included calling on the agency to extend the boundary of the cleanup area beyond Canal St. and include businesses as well as residences. However, the resolution was tabled at C.B. 1's full board meeting July 30 because some members called it "too broad."
    E.P.A. spokesperson Mary Mears said Monday that the agency hopes to begin cleaning apartments within four weeks. Officials have said previously that they are open to extending the boundary above Canal St. The agency is finalizing the parameters of the work that will be released to the city's D.E.P. "We are within days of finalizing the scope," Mears added.
    After receiving the instructions from the E.P.A., the city will let out bids for about four contractors who will cover four quadrants making up areas of Lower Manhattan. Each contractor is expected to clean 80 apartments per day, Mears said.
    In related news, the D.E.P. announced last week that inspectors have found minimal presence of asbestos and other contaminants from World Trade Center debris on the roofs and exteriors of buildings Downtown. Under the Exterior Building Cleanup Program, building owners whose properties have been identified as having World Trade Center debris are eligible to have the debris removed by licensed asbestos contractors at no cost.
    To date, more than 1,000 buildings Downtown have been inspected. Three quarters of the buildings inspected have shown no evidence of debris. Of those upon which debris has been identified, 81 buildings have been cleaned and an additional 56 buildings are either in the process of being cleaned or have been scheduled for future cleanup. For information about the Exterior Building Clean-Up Program call (718) DEP-HELP. For information on indoor cleanup call (877) 796-5471.

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