8th Congressional District of New York
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: John Doty
December 6, 2006 202-225-5635
Nadler Blasts EPA Sham WTC Testing & Cleanup Program
Calls plan a "slap in the face" to the people of Lower Manhattan
Vows a Democratic Congress will "hold EPA accountable"
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today blasted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for issuing yet another inadequate testing and cleanup program for World Trade Center contamination. The new plan does not reflect the recommendations of the EPA Inspector General issued in August 2003, or the "World Trade Center Expert Technical Review Panel" established by EPA specifically to develop a scientifically sound plan for indoor contamination.
"This new EPA plan is another slap in the face to the residents and workers of Lower Manhattan," said Rep. Nadler. "Even though this has been going on for five years, it is still shocking how callously the EPA ignores its own experts, and turns a blind eye to the victims of 9/11."
The new EPA program will allow residents to test for only four contaminants (asbestos, lead, PAHs, and man-made vitreous fibers), on a voluntary basis, and if necessary, have their residence cleaned. This testing and cleanup program is very similar to the Agency's 2002 "Indoor Air Residential Cleanup Program" except that under the new plan, residences can be tested first and then cleaned, rather than the other way around. Like the 2002 plan, the geographic area is limited to South of Canal Street in Lower Manhattan, and buildings will not be treated as a whole to reduce the threat of recontamination. A total of $7 million has been allocated for the program.
According to the EPA's official announcement, the plan was based on the assumption that the "vast majority of residential and commercial spaces in Lower Manhattan have been repeatedly cleaned" and that the potential for exposure related to dust "is low." But in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the EPA told people to clean up WTC dust on their own with a wet mop or hire their own cleaning crews. No interior space has ever been cleaned by the Federal government in a manner consistent with federal environmental laws, and many buildings outside the arbitrary geographic boundary set by EPA may be contaminated.
A 2003 EPA Inspector General's Report found that EPA's initial cleanup plan was not adequate to comply with federal laws that govern protection of public health and the environment. The IG report recommended that EPA implement a testing program to ensure that the indoor cleanup effectively reduce health risks from all pollutants of concern, and implement a verification program to determine whether previously cleaned residences have been re-contaminated. The IG also recommended expanding the cleanup program to workplaces. The new EPA plan recommends that workers file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The EPA established the "World Trade Center Expert Technical Review Panel" to implement the recommendations of the IG Report and develop a scientifically sound plan for indoor contamination. The Agency unilaterally disbanded the Panel in 2005.
"The EPA is acting as if the last four years never happened," said Rep. Nadler. "We know that people are sick, and yet the Agency is repeating the same mistakes by limiting the plan to a small geographic area, not testing for all contaminants known to be present in WTC dust, not treating buildings as a whole to reduce recontamination, and by refusing to take responsibility for commercial buildings. The fact that they're only spending $7 million shows that EPA doesn't intend to do too much."
At the request of Rep. Nadler, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Sen. Jim Jeffords, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been conducting a study of EPA's World Trade Center indoor testing and cleanup program, and the EPA's disbandment of the "Technical Review Panel." GAO is expected to include a review of the new EPA testing and cleanup plan as part of its study. A draft report is expected from GAO in March, 2007. Rep. Nadler and Sen. Clinton are both expected to chair committees with some jurisdiction over these issues in January.
"It is clear that EPA has no intention to ever follow the will of Congress, their own experts, or more importantly, the people of New York," said Rep. Nadler. "A Democratic Congress will hold EPA accountable."
Jerrold Nadler has served in Congress since 1992. He represents New York's 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
EPAs Cleanup Plan Provides No Public Health or Scientific Benefit, a Disservice to Anyone Who May Be Exposed to World Trade Center Contamination
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jonathan Bennett 212-227-6440 x 14
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health issued this statement concerning EPAs final plan concerning contamination resulting from the collapse of the World Trade Center.
After conducting one completely ineffective clean-up program in 2002 and then dawdling for nearly three years before beginning a program that will allegedly correct the deficiencies of the first effort, EPA has insulted everyone who works, lives or studies in Lower Manhattan by offering a new cleanup plan that is scarcely better than the first one.
In particular, EPA once again refuses to clean contaminated workplaces, even though there is not a scintilla of evidence that workplaces are any less likely to be contaminated than residences. The approximately 1,500 commercial and institutional buildings in Lower Manhattan, including offices, schools, government buildings, and firehouses, are excluded from the cleanup program. There is no scientific or legal basis for this exclusion.
Thousands of workers, many of whose unions are NYCOSH members, work in the World Trade Center area. Some of these workplaces are known to have been affected by 9/11 contaminants. Others may have been. Many Lower Manhattan workers, including workers who did not work on the pile at Ground Zero, have been diagnosed with respiratory illness and other adverse health effects. Their medical conditions persist even five years after 9/11.
Nevertheless, neither EPA nor any other governmental agency has ever conducted post-9/11 environmental sampling in Lower Manhattan workplaces or offered employers and workers environmental cleanups where warranted. In 2002, when EPA initiated a test and clean program for Lower Manhattan residences, workplaces were excluded. Now, in 2006, as EPA announces another test and clean program, workplaces are again excluded.
NYCOSH, along with many labor unions and community representatives told EPA in 2002, and we repeat today, there is no scientific or legal justification for the governments refusal to conduct environmental sampling and offer cleanup in places of employment, while it does so in residences. Contamination does not discriminate. If 9/11 contaminants entered downtown residences, there is no reason to believe that 9/11 contaminants did not enter downtown businesses.
The EPA WTC Expert Technical Review Panel recommended that workplaces be included in any sampling and cleanup program. Now EPA has arbitrarily rejected the recommendation of the panel and has again excluded downtown workplaces from sampling and cleanup. If this decision is allowed to stand, workers and employers in the WTC area will never know what exposures they had post-9/11 and will never have had the benefit of a coordinated cleanup, beyond the patchwork of efforts undertaken by some employers and landlords.
We are gravely disappointed by EPAs refusal to carry out its mission to protect human health and the environment and by its failure to address the concerns of working people affected by the WTC collapse. We call on EPA to include places of employment in any 9/11 test and clean program. Our members, our neighbors, and our city deserve nothing less.
As unacceptable as the exclusion of workplaces is, there are a large number of other, equally serious deficiencies, that would render the plan a failure even if workplaces were to be included. For example, the $7 million budget is a tiny fraction of the amount needed to properly test and clean all affected buildings. The EPAs 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. And the plans failure to address the obvious contamination north of Canal Street and in areas of Brooklyn and New Jersey are all fatal flaws.
The shortcomings of this plan are so enormous that its implementation will provide no public health or scientific benefit. Implementation of this plan would be 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.
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