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Context of 'September 18, 2001: EPA Advises Against Wearing Respirators Outside WTC Restricted Area'

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The EPA issues a publication which states that in the event of a terrorist attack causing the release of hazardous substances, the EPA would respond under the authority of the NCP (see 1972). “The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has statutory authorities and responsibilities to prepare for and respond to emergencies involving oil and hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants, which include chemical, biological and radiological materials that could also be components of a weapon of mass destruction (WMD)…. EPA carries out its preparedness and response efforts primarily under the mandate of the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) and the Radiological Response Program.” (Environmental Protection Agency 5/2000 pdf file)

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 2 office in Edison, NJ, dispatches three On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) within minutes of the first plane crashing into the WTC Tower. (Meagher and Stapleton 10/21/2001) The OSCs are job functions specific to the National Contingency Plan (NCP) and therefore indicate that the NCP is in effect and that the EPA is acting under its authority. The OSCs will be involved in the agency’s response to the disaster at least until October 2002. (Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman 3/27/2002; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) But the EPA will imply in later statements and documents that the NCP had not been put into effect after the attacks (see August 21, 2003).

The EPA publishes a FAQ (frequently asked questions web page) on Environmental and Public Health issues related to the collapse of World Trade Center and Pentagon. The response to one of the questions specifically advises people not to wear respirators outside the WTC restricted area. “EPA has not detected any pollutant levels of concern in Lower Manhattan generally or at the Fresh Kills site on Staten Island, where the debris from the WTC cleanup is being taken for inspection and sorting,” the public notice explains. (Environmental Protection Agency 9/18/2001)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly lifts a 25-year-old restriction on the sale of PCB-contaminated land. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are linked to cancer and neurological problems. The rollback, based on an EPA reinterpretation of an existing law, is announced in an internal memo written by EPA general counsel Robert Fabricant. Fabricant claims in the memo that the old interpretation represented “an unnecessary barrier to economic redevelopment.” Because the change is considered a “new interpretation” of existing law, the administration has no legal obligation to make a public announcement. Critics, including some EPA staffers, note that the longstanding ban served as an incentive for landowners to notify the EPA of the contamination and clean up their property. As a result, about 100 sites a year were submitted to the agency for review. They also warn that the new policy will make it hard to track sales of polluted sites and to ensure that buyers properly assess the land prior to development. (Environmental Protection Agency 8/14/2003 pdf file; Eisler 9/1/2003; Lee 9/3/2003)


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