U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued the first "White Paper" on Lower Manhattan air quality. According to the congressman, the White Paper compiles evidence "on improper and illegal" Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions in the World Trade Center (WTC) case, presents a number of new findings, and calls on the EPA to immediately comply with the law to protect the public health.
"This new White Paper, which will be updated regularly, gives the full-scale damning account of what is currently known about the EPA''s reckless and illegal response to the indoor air quality situation since Sept. 11th," says Nadler.
He says the White Paper documents a growing body of evidence that the EPA misled the public about the safety of air quality and improperly allowed the City of New York to handle indoor air matters, with virtually no effort to assure that city agencies complied with federal laws and regulations designed to protect the public from exposure to hazardous materials. In doing so, the White Paper charges, the EPA violated federal law and put the public health at risk claiming the city''s handling of indoor air matters has been inadequate, and therefore indoor spaces cannot be considered safe. It also provides new evidence on what Nadler calls EPA''s "double-standards" and calls on the EPA to immediately reverse its course of action.
"Clearly, the EPA has broken the law by its lack of compliance with the National Contingency Plan [with mandates EPA''s direct responsibility for hazardous materials contamination situations] and it must now comply," Nadler insists. "The EPA must stop passing the buck. There is still time for the EPA to fulfill its mission and protect the public health."
The White Paper includes:
- A detailed section specifying precisely how the EPA broke federal law;
- New evidence on how EPA''s assurances of "safety" have resulted in the denial of benefits and relief to the citizens of downtown for cleanup from government agencies, private insurance carriers and social welfare organizations, such as the Red Cross; and
- Additional evidence supporting the claim that the EPA treated its own building differently than it treated the rest of Lower Manhattan.
In addition, Nadler sent a letter to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman requesting specific new information related to EPA actions.
According to Nadler, EPA defended its actions on indoor air matters in Lower Manhattan by stating that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) made "mission assignments" under the Federal Response Plan. Nadler suggests in the White Paper that the National Contingency Plan (NCP), which is actually activated by the Federal Response Plan, was not properly followed. The letter seeks to find additional information related to this issue.
"I want to know what the EPA did and when did it do it," says Nadler. "What actions exactly did the EPA take under the National Contingency Plan?"
The day after the release of the White Paper, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) announced the formation of the Lower Manhattan Air Quality Task Force, which will oversee environmental issues in and around the World Trade Center site.
"Public confidence in the air quality around the World Trade Center site is essential to the revitalization and economic growth of downtown," says Bloomberg. "We cannot attract residents and businesses back into Lower Manhattan unless they know they are safe."
The task force is led by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and will coordinate the activities of city agencies concerned with Lower Manhattan''s environmental safety. Federal and state agencies are invited to participate and the city will continue to work with EPA on air quality issues. OEM established a hotline staffed by employees of the New York City Department of Health and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection to answer questions and provide information on the environmental conditions in downtown Manhattan. The hotline number is (212) 221-8635 and it is staffed Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"I am pleased that Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Clinton have taken the initiative in forming this task force on indoor air," says Nadler. "It will be productive as a clearing house of information, and I know it will serve the people of Lower Manhattan well by making information readily available to them, and taking their concerns into account."
He adds that the EPA "must live up to the law and take whatever measures necessary to do immediate testing and cleanup of interiors downtown. This should not be the city''s responsibility, nor should residents be left up to their own devices…until the EPA acts, nothing has been solved."
The White Paper can be obtained by contacting Rep. Nadler''s district office in NYC at (212) 367-7350 or his Washington office at (202) 225-5635.
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])