EPA's World Trade Center Cleanup Plan Criticized

The final phase of EPA's plan to test homes and businesses in Lower Manhattan for 9/11-related contaminants is drawing criticism that workers have been left "out in the cold."

As part of EPA's Lower Manhattan Test and Clean Program, residents and building owners or their authorized representative in Lower Manhattan have until March 30 to register to have the air and dust in their units tested for contaminants – such as asbestos, fiberglass, lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – associated with dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center. The agency said that priority testing will be based on a property's proximity to the World Trade Center site.

While the announcement of the final phase could go a long way to allay the fears of residents and commercial space owners, lawmakers and labor organization voiced their distaste for the new EPA plan. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., asserted that the program falls "short and would leave many New Yorkers out in the cold."

Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) and an ardent critic of EPA's handling of the 9/11 aftermath, said that the cleanup plan excludes approximately 1,500 commercial and institutional buildings in Lower Manhattan, including offices, schools, government buildings and a firehouse.

Shufro argued that "there is not a scintilla of evidence that workplaces are any less likely to be contaminated than residents."

"There is no scientific or legal basis for this exclusion," Shufro stated.

Among other deficiencies of the plan, according to NYCOSH:

  • The $7 million budget is a tiny fraction of the amount needed to properly test and clean all affected buildings.
  • EPA's refusal to test and clean supposedly inaccessible spaces will result in workers and others being exposed to WTC contaminants for many decades at the very least.
  • The plan fails to address the obvious contamination north of Canal Street and in areas of Brooklyn and New Jersey.

"The shortcomings of this plan are so enormous that its implementation will provide no public health or scientific benefit," Shufro explained. "Implementation of this plan is a disservice to anyone who lives, works, attends school or spends any appreciable periods of time in Lower Manhattan or in other areas that may have been affected by WTC contaminants."

EPA: Possibility of Contamination is Low

According to EPA, potential for exposure to dust that may remain from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings is low, as the agency claims that the majority of occupied residential and commercial spaces have been cleaned several times since Sept. 11, 2001.

But if testing of dust and air samples in indoor spaces finds an elevated level of any of the four contaminants, EPA said, the contaminants will be cleaned up.

For more information on the EPA Test and Clean Program, visit EPA's Web site.

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