Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

EPA Extends Testing Deadline
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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