EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said that results from the agency''s air and drinking water monitoring near the World Trade Center and Pentagon disaster sites indicate these resources are safe.
Whitman also announced that EPA has been given up to $83 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support EPA''s involvement in cleanup activities and ongoing monitoring of environmental conditions at both disaster sites following last week''s terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"We are very encouraged that the results from our monitoring of air quality and drinking water conditions in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances," said Whitman. "I am glad to reassure the people of New York City and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breath and their water is safe to drink."
In the aftermath of last Tuesday''s attacks, EPA has been working with state, federal and local authorities in both cities to provide expertise on cleanup methods for hazardous materials, as well as to detect whether any contaminants are found in ambient air quality monitoring, sampling of drinking water sources and sampling of runoff near the disaster sites.
EPA said it has conducted repeated monitoring of ambient air quality at the site of the World Trade Center and in the general Wall Street district of Manhattan, as well as in Brooklyn. The agency said it is planning to perform air monitoring in the surrounding New York Metropolitan area as well.
EPA has set up 10 continuous air monitoring stations near the World Trade Center site. So far, from 50 air samples taken, the vast majority of results are either non-detectable or below established levels of concern for asbestos, lead and volatile organic compounds.
The highest levels of asbestos have been detected within one-block of ground zero, where rescuers have been provided with appropriate personal protective equipment, according to EPA.
Drinking water in Manhattan was tested at 13 sampling points, in addition to one test at the Newton Sewage Treatment plant and pump station.
Initial results of this drinking water sampling show that levels of asbestos are well below EPA''s levels of concern.
At the Pentagon site in Arlington, Va., EPA has also been involved in a variety of monitoring of air and water quality.
According to the agency, all ambient air monitoring results, both close to the crash site and in the general vicinity, have shown either no detection of asbestos or levels that fall well below EPA''s level of concern.
Likewise, testing of runoff water from the disaster site does not show elevated levels of contaminants.
While FEMA has provided EPA with at total project ceiling cost of slightly more than $83 million for the agency''s cleanup efforts in New York City and at the Pentagon site, EPA said it is currently working with emergency funding of $23.7 million.
If costs exceed this level, FEMA will authorize EPA to tap additional funding in increments of $15 million. As part of the additional funding to be provided by FEMA, EPA is responsible for any hazardous waste disposal, general site safety and providing sanitation facilities for many of the search and rescue workers to wash the dust off following their shifts.
On-site facilities are being made available for rescue workers to clean themselves, change their clothing and to have dust-laden clothes cleaned separately from normal household wash, EPA said.
by Virginia Foran