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EPA Official: Lower Manhattan Should Be a Superfund Site

This first in a series of articles examines a memo written by an EPA employee that casts doubt on claims made by OSHA and EPA that monitoring has not uncovered hazardous levels of asbestos and other hazards near the World Trade Center site.

A memo circulating in certain circles casts doubt on claims made by federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that monitoring has not uncovered hazardous levels of asbestos and other hazards near the World Trade Center (WTC) site. Ironically, the memo was written by an EPA employee.

The memo writer, Cate Jenkins, Ph.D., says that parts of Lower Manhattan should be designated a Superfund site.

Jenkins, who works for the Waste Identification Branch, Hazardous Waste Identification Division of EPA, claims that a risk assessment she performed in December 2001 using admittedly limited data projected cancer risks as high as 2 in 100 for people living or working in buildings in parts of Lower Manhattan near the WTC site.

Jenkins'' memo compares data for asbestos in settled dusts and air inside residences in the town of Libby, Mont., a Superfund site, and similar data for the interior of buildings in Lower Manhattan. The asbestos contamination in Lower Manhattan, up to seven blocks away from Ground Zero, is comparable or higher than that found in Libby, says Jenkins.

Designating the area as a Superfund site would "bring order to the situation and begin to alleviate the current exposures to asbestos, fiberglass, fine particulates and other toxic substances like mercury and lead," writes Jenkins. "It would enable the use of better methods to test and monitor the contamination, particularly for asbestos. It would take the financial burden away from citizens and transfer it to the government."

(Tomorrow: In Part II of our series, Jenkins examines the ineffective cleanup of WTC asbestos, including problems with EPA''s asbestos testing and monitoring techniques; effectiveness of the cleanup of asbestos; and health risks to residents and workers.)

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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