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Fire Heroes' Trucks
Still Tainted by WTC Dust
NY Post, August 26, 2002
Firefighters are rushing to emergencies around the city in trucks still
carrying remnants of toxic World Trade Center dust and debris nearly a year after the
Sept. 11 attacks, The Post has learned. Of the 122 firetrucks involved in rescue and
recovery efforts at Ground Zero, 93 have yet to be totally cleared of asbestos, Fiberglas,
lead and other contaminants, FDNY officials have confirmed and lab reports show. But those
trucks went back into use months ago.
Working firefighters continue to find debris fragments and spoonfuls of
dust behind seat cushions, in hose compartments and in air-conditioning units of their
rigs - some of it potentially toxic. Debris scooped from three professionally cleaned rigs
was tested by a watchdog group, the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, and
found to have unsafe levels of asbestos and Fiberglas, reports obtained by The Post show.
In the six months following Sept. 11, 332 firefighters required more
than four weeks of leave for "significant" respiratory problems, according to
FDNY records. About 60 percent of those remain on light duty or sick leave, or have
retired. Some firefighters point out that health concerns prompted the city to condemn 890
privately owned cars and 91 FDNY vehicles that were parked near the trade center and
deemed impossible to safely clean of all dust and contaminants. The firefighters say they
had expected similar strict standards to be applied to the cleaning of those dusted
firetrucks put back into city service.
"It seemed every time they'd come back to the firehouses, the
members were not satisfied with what was done," said Uniformed Firefighters
Association Sergeant-at-Arms Phil McArdle. "If we can't adequately protect our
members, we can't adequately protect the public."
FDNY Chief William Van Ward said 214 FDNY vehicles have been tested for
airborne asbestos, using sensors that detect airborne matter and taking swipe samples off
flat surfaces. Nearly all the trucks tested were deemed safe, he said, because the levels
of any airborne asbestos in them did not reach the federal safety cut-off of 70 fibers per
square centimeter. "Anyone who thinks the Fire Department has been neglectful is just
wrong," Van Ward said.
Van Ward confirmed it was the department's intention "to
decontaminate all the trucks that were down there [at the trade center]." "Every
truck in the fleet will be at least tested," he said. Decontamination of the
remaining trucks is set to begin Sept. 3 and is expected to take the Brooklyn-based
cleaning firm Northern Valley Contracting five months to complete at a cost of at least
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