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EPA Extends Testing
By Margaret Ramirez,
Newsday Staff Writer, August 16, 2002
After much criticism of a federal plan to cleanup apartments in lower
Manhattan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will extend the deadline for residents
to request testing and cleanup, officials said Friday. The testing and cleanup of
apartments that were filled with potentially toxic dust from the collapse of the World
Trade Center is expected to be the largest cleanup in history. The EPA announced the
cleanup plan in May, marking a sharp reversal from an earlier stance that the federal
government was not responsible for indoor spaces. But, after details of the cleanup
emerged, several elected officials, scientists and residents criticized the plan as
inadequate. They said the Sept. 3 deadline to request cleanup was too soon, the geographic
area was too small and the effort to inform the public about the free program was too lax.
So far, 2,997 people have requested asbestos cleaning and testing.
Another 822 people requested asbestos testing alone. That makes only 3,819 residents out
of an estimated 20,000 eligible residents.
Mary Mears, an EPA spokeswoman said the deadline to request testing or
cleanup will now be Oct. 2. In addition, Mears said the agency was starting to schedule
the testing of 100 residences for asbestos. That testing is set to begin in a week. The
city is also in the process of selecting cleaning contractors, Mears said. For that
reason, full scale cleaning is not expected to begin until September.
Mears said the geographic boundaries, which are set at Canal, Allen and
Pike Streets, may also be expanded to include a greater area. If we see a need to
expand the cleaning, we will. That's not entirely off the table, Mears said. The
agency also plans to test 250 apartments for dioxins and toxic metals, such as lead and
mercury. Those apartments will be randomly selected from the nearly 3,819 people who
requested cleanup or testing. The EPA's toll-free hotline at 1-877-796-5471
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