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Context of 'September 22, 2001: New York City Health Department Again Says ‘No Significant Adverse Health Risks’ near Ground Zero'

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With the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the scope of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) is extended to cover hazardous substance releases in addition to oil spills. [Environmental Protection Agency, 12/23/2004] The NCP is a component of the US government’s National Response System, “a multi-layered system of individuals and teams from local, state, and federal agencies, industry, and other organizations that share expertise and resources to ensure that oil spill control and cleanup activities are timely and efficient” and that threats to human health and the environment are minimized. [Environmental Protection Agency, 4/19/2004] When in effect, the plan is administered by the EPA, which is required by law to follow specific procedures and guidelines, including designating an “On-Scene Coordinator” (OSC), who is responsible for directing response efforts and coordinating all other efforts at the scene of a discharge or release. In the event that the EPA delegates any tasks to state or local authorities, the EPA is responsible for ensuring that the response is in accordance with EPA standards. [US Code, Vol. 40, sec. 300; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues its Interim Asbestos NESHAP Enforcement Guidance on “Friable Asbestos,” which clarifies the definition and acceptable use of “asbestos-containing” materials. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), issued in 1973, defined “asbestos-containing materials,” or ACMs, as products that contain more than 1 percent asbestos by weight. Citing the original document, the guidance explains that NESHAP’s purpose was to “ban the use of materials which contain significant quantities of asbestos, but to allow the use of materials which would (1) contain trace amounts of asbestos that occur in numerous natural substances, and (2) include very small quantities of asbestos (less than 1 percent) added to enhance the material’s effectiveness.” However, the guidance stresses, the “EPA NESHAP definition of 1 percent by weight was not established to be a health-based standard.” [Stewart, 4/18/1989 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA issues a pamphlet answering common questions on the Asbestos NESHAP regulations (see April 18, 1989). One question asks: “Is there a numeric emission limit for the release of asbestos fibers during renovations or demolitions in the asbestos NESHAP regulation?” The EPA answers that although there is no numeric emission limit, NESHAP “does specify zero visible emissions to the outside air from activity relating to the transport and disposal of asbestos waste.” In other words, if any emissions are visible during transport or disposal, the level of asbestos is unsafe. [Environmental Protection Agency, 12/1990]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

1992: Federal Response Plan Becomes Law

The Federal Response Plan (FRP) is developed and becomes Public Law 93-288. The FRP provides “a process and structure for the systematic, coordinated, and effective delivery of Federal assistance to address the consequences of any major disaster or emergency declared under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.” The plan can be called into action by the president of the United States in times of emergency. Once invoked, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates the efforts of any Emergency Support Functions (ESF) involved. In the event of a hazardous materials release, the EPA is charged with overseeing the federal government’s response. The Federal Response Team (FRT) and Regional Response Teams (RRTs) are charged with “carry[ing] out their duties and responsibilities as put forth in the NCP [National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan] (see 1972) and agency implementing procedures.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/1997]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

A study commissioned by the EPA, “Evaluation of Three Cleaning Methods for Removing Asbestos from Carpet,” finds that available methods of asbestos removal from carpets and upholstery are incapable of effectively removing the fibers. “The wet cleaning method reduced the level of asbestos contamination in the carpet by approximately 60 percent, whereas neither dry cleaning method had any notable effect on the asbestos level,” the report says. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1993; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issues its “Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism” which reaffirms the EPA’s responsibility to respond to any hazardous materials emergencies caused by terrorist attack and provide the affected public with all information relevant to their health and safety. The report observes that the EPA has “expertise in performing off-site monitoring, extent of contamination surveys, working with health officials to establish safe cleanup levels, conducting protective cleanup actions, and communicating technical information/data to impacted citizens…” Moreover, the OMB notes that “EPA’s first responders (On-Scene Coordinators or OSCs) from all 10 regions have been actively involved with local, State, and Federal authorities in responding to threats of terrorism,” and that “EPA’s response to such threats is an extension of its existing hazardous materials response capability developed over more than 30 years as a leader of the National Response System (see 1972).” [Office of Management and Budget, 7/2001 pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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. [Environmental Protection Agency, 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).

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Mayor Giuliani announces that New York City schools will be closed the following day. He explains that power is out on west side of Manhattan and that NYC Department of Health (DOH) tests indicate that no airborne chemical agents were released during attack. [CNN, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA assigns the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with the task of ensuring that Lower Manhattan homes and businesses are safe for re-occupation. The EPA is bound by the National Contingency Plan (NCP) to see that the City of New York adheres to, and enforces, all EPA standards (see 1972). [US Code, Vol. 40, sec. 300; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] The city, in turn, will leave the job of testing and cleanup to the building owners and residents themselves. Neither the city nor the EPA will inform them of the federal regulations that govern asbestos testing and abatement. Instead, the City’s health department will provide residents, landlords, and building owners with a tip sheet consisting of instructions “for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residences” that is completely wrong (see September 16, 2001) (see September 17, 2001). [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hugh Granger

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

EPA administrator Christie Whitman recommends that New Yorkers who evacuated their homes after the collapse of the World Trade Center “vacuum everything, including air conditioning filters, and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth,” Newsweek reports. [Newsweek, 9/14/2001; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] The recommendation is made despite two studies completed for the EPA in 1993 demonstrating that HEPA vacuums do not effectively remove asbestos from carpets and upholstery (see 1993) and that vacuuming actually increases asbestos levels in the air during use (see 1993).

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issues a public notice advising building owners and building maintenance managers located south of 14th Street to replace filters in air circulation systems and to run their systems on the recirculation mode until fires at the World Trade Center are extinguished. The agency also recommends that owners and managers contract professionals to test their buildings for the presence of asbestos and other hazardous materials prior to beginning cleanup by maintenance employees. If the presence of harmful contaminants are detected, they must telephone the DEP, where a staff employee will review each case and provide verbal approval. [New York City Department of Health, 9/16/2001 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The New York City Department of Health (DOH) issues recommendations for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residences. [New York City Department of Health, 9/17/2001]
Recommendations -
bullet The NYC DOH advises residents not return to apartments or workplaces south of Warren Street, west of Broadway, and north of Exchange Street, until the buildings have been approved to resume tenancy by building management.
bullet The DOH recommends that people wear dust masks upon re-entering their indoor areas. After indoor spaces have been cleaned as per instructions, it should not be necessary to wear dust masks.
bullet The advisory recommends that residents and people working downtown clean homes and offices using “a wet rag or wet mop.”
bullet Additional suggestions include shampooing and vacuuming carpets and upholstery with a HEPA vacuum or a normal vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. The recommendation is made despite two studies completed for the EPA in 1993 demonstrating that HEPA vacuums do not effectively remove asbestos from carpets and upholstery (see 1993) and that vacuuming actually increases asbestos levels in the air during use (see 1993).
bullet The advisory recommends that residents filter the air in their homes with HEPA air purifiers.
bullet NYC DOH instructs residents to “wash heavily soiled or dusty clothing or linens twice” and remove “lint from washing machines and filters in the dryers with each laundry load.”
bullet The recommendations say that if the “apartment is very dusty,” curtains should be washed or HEPA vacuumed. “If curtains need to be taken down, take them down slowly to keep dust from circulating in the air,” it adds.
bullet Residents are advised to bathe pets “with running water from a hose or faucet.” The advisory adds that “their paws should be wiped to avoid tracking dust inside the home.”
bullet The advisory also states to “[k]eep outdoor dust from entering the home” by keeping the “windows closed” and setting the “conditioner to re-circulate air (closed vents).”
bullet The advisory repeats earlier assertions that air monitoring indicates levels of airborne asbestos fibers detected in outside air does not pose a significant threat to human health. “Based on the asbestos test results received thus far, there are no significant health risks to occupants in the affected area or to the general public,” the agency claims. The DOH’s recommendations are criticized by industrial hygienists and other experts. The advisory is criticized for failing to mention that the “dust” inside these homes could possibly contain asbestos and other toxic substances and for neglecting to inform people that stringent national statutes regulate asbestos removal, requiring professional abatement of materials or dust that contain asbestos or other hazardous substances. US statutory code does not permit unlicensed individuals or contractors, much less residents, to perform asbestos removal. [New York City Department of Health, 9/16/2001 pdf file; New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 pdf file; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] In spite of these problems, the EPA website will link to the notice. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] and refer people to it who email the agency with questions about the safety of indoor air (see After November 1, 2001) (see After November 10, 2001). Some people, however, never even learn of this advisory and—after hearing repeated assurances from officials about safe environmental conditions—clean their indoor spaces as they otherwise would under normal conditions. [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file] Residents who do hire professional cleaners will find that their homes are still not safe. In November, American Medical News reports numerous doctors in NYC are seeing patients with respiratory conditions. “Their apartments were covered in dust, and have since been professionally cleaned” Ira Finegold, MD, chief of allergy at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, will say. “But they return, and after 20 minutes, they’re developing a raspy cough.” [American Medical News, 11/26/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, Ira Finegold

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Residents at 150 Franklin Street, a seven-story cooperatively owned building several blocks north of Ground Zero, clean their apartments according to the instructions provided by the New York City Department of Health (see September 17, 2001). They also sweep the roof and other common areas. Despite their efforts, the building will test positive for asbestos in April 2002 (see April 15, 2002-April 18, 2002). [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Business Week publishes a news report on the potential environmental and human health impact of the World Trade Center collapse. The report cites experts who challenge EPA claims that the air-quality of surrounding areas does not pose significant risks to public health. “[M]any scientists and public-health experts in New York, across the country, and in Europe counter that dust and toxic materials, not asbestos, may be the biggest threat and that the EPA’s testing is, at best, inconclusive,” the magazine reports. Part of the problem lies in lax EPA pollution limits, which experts say “are often heavily influenced by industry” and consequently much too high—“especially in an event of such unprecedented magnitude that flooded the environment with so many contaminants simultaneously.” The report goes on to say that the experts are concerned that “everyone who was in the explosions’ vicinity could have potentially suffered acute exposure from the dust and smoke and could be at risk for everything from near-term respiratory ailments to, over decades, cancer.” Richard Clapp, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, tells Business Week: “Even at low or barely detectable levels, that’s a lot of asbestos fibers and other dangerous particles going into people’s lungs. If those get lodged, they could do damage later on.” Temple University civil engineering professor William Miller notes that the trucks hauling debris away from the WTC are probably dispersing toxic debris “all over Lower Manhattan.” The article says the smallest dust particles, which are difficult to detect, are also the “most insidious” and are not filtered out by paper masks. [Business Week, 9/20/2001] Yet the EPA had explicitly stated that people living and working in the area did not need to use respirators (see September 22, 2001).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Richard Clapp, William Miller

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The New York City Department of Health issues a press release reiterating earlier public statements regarding the air quality in Manhattan and announces that the agency has distributed over 50,000 copies of the New York City Department of Health’s recommendations for tenant re-occupancy (see September 17, 2001). The press release quotes New York City Health Commissioner Neal L. Cohen, MD, who asserts that “there are no significant adverse health risks to the general public….” and “all residents and business owners should check with their building managers or owners to make sure that their buildings are safe, and have been certified for re-occupancy.” Residents and business owners who are permitted to return to their buildings “should follow Health Department recommendations to minimize exposure to dust and other particulate matter that may cause throat and eye irritation,” he says. The statement goes on to say that only people who live or work “within the general vicinity of the blast zone… and who have been approved to resume tenancy are advised to wear a dust mask while outside. Dust masks are not necessary for residents in other areas.” Tenants following the DEP’s cleanup guidelines should find it “unnecessary to wear a mask while inside buildings,” the statement says. [New York City Department of Health, 9/22/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, Neal L. Cohen, M.D.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

An EPA press release summarizes the agency’s response to the September 11 attacks under its authority pursuant the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see 1972). [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The American Lung Association announces plans to distribute more than 10,000 cleanup kits to assist people returning to their homes. Each “Operation Return Home” kit will include recommendations (see September 17, 2001) from the city’s department of health on how to properly clean their residences as well as a dust mask and a pair of latex gloves for cleaning. [Associated Press, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: American Lung Association

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

EPA Region 2 says at least four times, and the New York City Department of Health and Environmental Protection at least once, that they are using a protective standard under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to determine whether indoor and outdoor air pose a threat to public health. They assert that the standard is regularly used to determine whether it is safe for school children to return to school buildings after asbestos has been removed or abated. According to the agencies, the standard designates an asbestos level of 70 or fewer structures per square millimeter as safe. [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file] For example, on a page explaining its “benchmarks, standards and guidelines established to protect public health,” the EPA states: “In evaluating data from the World Trade Center and the surrounding areas, EPA is using a protective standard under AHERA, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, to evaluate the risk from asbestos in the outdoor and indoor air. This is a very stringent standard that is used to determine whether children may re-enter a school building after asbestos has been removed or abated…. To determine asbestos levels, air filters are collected from monitoring equipment through which air in the school building has passed and viewed through a microscope. The number of structures—material that has asbestos fibers on or in it—is then counted. The measurements must be 70 or fewer structures per square millimeter before children are allowed inside.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 3/31/2005] But according to Title 40, part 763.90, of the Code of Federal Regulations, the 70 s/mm [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file] Instead, AHERA sets as the EPA’s cleanup goal an exposure level which scientists have determined has a risk level lower than the EPA’s maximum risk level of 10 [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency, 1/5/2006] The significance of the two agencies’ misstatements cannot be overstated as the 70 s/mm [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Environmental Protection Agency, Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The decision to reopen Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan is made based on tests of indoor air samples taken by the EPA. Two EPA “On Scene-Coordinators” (OSCs) (see (8:50 a.m. EST) September 11, 2001) are present at the meeting and participate in the decision-making. One of the OSCs is Charlie Fitzsimmons. [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Charlie Fitzsimmons, Stuyvesant High School

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

On October 9, students of Stuyvesant High School, an elite public school known for its rigorous math and science curriculum and ethnic diversity, return to class. [Associated Press, 10/19/2001; Associated Press, 10/26/2001] The two EPA On-Scene Coordinators (OSC) who took part in the decision to re-open the school (see October 5, 2001) are present for the re-opening. [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002] The school is located four blocks north of the WTC site and is downwind from its smoke plume. It is also adjacent to where debris is being loaded from uncovered trucks—some 350 per day—onto barges around the clock. A week after re-opening the school, approximately 100 of the high school’s 3,200 students and teachers complain of respiratory difficulty, mysterious headaches, nausea, sore throats, and nosebleeds. Some students wear respirators to school to protect themselves. [Associated Press, 10/19/2001; Associated Press, 10/26/2001; New York Daily News, 11/1/2001; New York Daily News, 12/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Stuyvesant High School, Charlie Fitzsimmons

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) publishes a notice for residents of Lower Manhattan reassuring them that the DEP, in collaboration with other government agencies, is doing everything it can to protect public health. The agencies are taking samples of the air, dust, water, river sediments and drinking water and analyzing them for the presence of pollutants, the statement says, and comparing them to a variety of government “benchmarks, standards and guidelines.” The notice claims that current monitoring indicates that containment levels do not represent a significant threat to public health. [NYC Department of Environmental Protection, 10/29/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says NYC government agencies have found that environmental conditions in Lower Manhattan “are not health-threatening… what I’m told is that it is not dangerous to your health.” [New York Daily News, 10/27/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Several government experts testify at a New York City Council meeting on environmental conditions following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] Kathleen Callahan, deputy regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), insists that New Yorkers living and working near the World Trade Center site are not in danger. “The vast majority of our tests find levels of these contaminants pose no significant long term health risks to residents, business employees and visitors beyond Ground Zero,” she says, repeating what earlier EPA statements have asserted. Downplaying the danger of those areas where higher asbestos levels have been found, she states—falsely (see April 18, 1989) (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004) —that “EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards are set many times below the level at which you would expect health impacts.” She advises New Yorkers who live or work in the affected areas to “follow the recommendations of the New York City Departments of Health and Environmental Protection on how to clean up properly (see September 17, 2001).” [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/1/2001] Another expert, Dr. Jessica Leighton, assistant city health commissioner for environmental risk assessment, similarly states that people living and working in Lower Manhattan have little to worry about. She says in response to a question whether or not “people are safe at the present level” of contamination: “As far as the science has shown us right now, that is absolutely correct.” Like Callahan, she claims that EPA standards are overly protective. “The standards or tolerance levels that are being used are very conservative,” she claims. “For example, for asbestos, we are using the standard that is used for indoor air quality for reentry into a school after asbestos removal, which is the most stringent standard, as the tolerance level or standard for outdoor air quality in the residential areas. This is also true for other substances, such as dioxins, identified at the perimeter of the site…. Moreover, these standards have been designed to include many safety factors so that acceptable levels of exposure are far below the levels at which health effects are expected to occur.” [New York City Department of Health, 11/1/2001] Joel Kupferman, executive director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, questions the accuracy of Leighton’s and Callahan’s statements and accuses them of withholding some test results. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] Kathryn Freed, a New York City Council Member who represents Lower Manhattan, said she was not convinced by agency assurances, noting that firemen are already showing symptoms of emphysema, a terminal disease for which there is no cure. “Just because it doesn’t reach a certain level is really irrelevant when people are sick,” says Marc Ameruso, a member of the area’s community board. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Kathryn Freed, Joel R Kupferman, Kathleen Callahan, Jessica Leighton, PhD.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA uses a form letter to respond to inquiries from people who live and work in Manhattan asking how they should clean their interior spaces. The letter instructs them to follow the procedures outlined in the New York Department of Health’s September 17 advisory (see September 17, 2001). “The EPA does not have jurisdiction or oversight of indoor air quality or indoor cleanups,” the letter explains. “New York City (NYC) has the primary authority and responsibility for reoccupancy of buildings and health issues. Since you work very close to the WTC it is important that the recommendations of the New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) on how to clean up be followed…. The NYCDOH fact sheet on the internet (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/alerts/wtc3.shtml) contains recommendations for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residents re-entering their homes. Should the need arise to investigate the requirements for remediation of your residence, the NYCDEP has compiled a list of asbestos investigators, remediation contractors and air monitoring firms.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

EPA Region 2 responds to an inquiry from a woman concerned about the asbestos levels in the building where her husband works, which is across the street from the World Trade Center site. The EPA informs her that “that the owner/manager of the building [should] follow the cleanup guidelines in the September 16 City of New York Public Notice (see September 16, 2001)…. In addition, the New York City Department of Health has a fact sheet (see September 17, 2001) on the internet… that contains recommendations for people re-occupying commercial buildings and residents re-entering their homes.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Cate Jenkins, Ph.D., a senior chemist in the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Identification Division, writes in a memo to Monona Rossol of the Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety (ACTS) organization that the EPA is ignoring federal asbestos-abatement laws in buildings close to the World Trade Center site. The 22-year veteran of the agency says that EPA officials “effectively waived” the EPA’s “strict national regulations for removal and disposal of asbestos contaminated dust” by advising residents and commercial building managers in Lower Manhattan to follow the “extremely lenient (and arguably illegal) asbestos guidelines of the New York City Department of Health.” She notes that EPA testing discovered the presence of asbestos levels above the one percent “action level” in dust samples from at least 30 locations, some of which were located within five to seven blocks of Ground Zero. After the memo is reported in the New York Daily News, EPA officials will assert that Jenkins doesn’t understand the law (see (November 19, 2001)). [Jenkins, 11/15/2001; New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, Monona Rossol, Cate Jenkins, PhD., Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Walter Mugdan, the EPA’s regional counsel, disputes allegations (see November 15, 2001) that EPA employee Cate Jenkins recently made against the agency in a memo. Jenkins claimed that EPA officials “effectively waived” the EPA’s “strict national regulations for removal and disposal of asbestos contaminated dust.” Mugdan argues that Jenkins “assumes that they [the regulations] apply to the cleaning up of dust in residential or office buildings in Lower Manhattan.” According to him, “When they were written, they were never intended to apply to something like a terrorist act. These regulations apply to owners and operators of a facility who are carrying out a demolition or renovation. They were never contemplated to apply to someone cleaning an apartment.” [New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 pdf file; Congressional Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler, 1/7/2002] In response to Mugdan’s claim, Jenkins says, “This is not an academic or scientific argument. Our regulations are very specific. They don’t allow you to do this. We’ve had a breakdown where the federal EPA and the city are scrambling to get everything back to normal, and they’re ignoring the law.” [New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 pdf file] Mugdan’s assertions are contradicted by the fact that the EPA has recently removed asbestos from private homes in Libby, Montana and has tested for, and removed, other types of hazardous materials in other regions of the US (see After November 1, 2001). [Congressional Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler, 1/7/2002] Furthermore, in May 2000 (see May 2000), the EPA affirmed that in the event of a terrorist attack, the EPA would respond under the authority of the NCP (see 1972) —which binds the EPA to the very rules Mugdan’s claims would not apply.

Entity Tags: Walter Mugdan, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Kathleen Callahan, deputy regional director of the US Environmental Protection Agency, testifies before the joint New York State Assembly Committees on Environmental Conservation, Health, and Labor. She reiterates past EPA assertions that WTC contaminants pose no long term risks to local residents. “We’ve tested for the presence of pollutants such as asbestos, fine particulate matter, lead, volatile organic compounds, dioxin, benzene, metals, PCBs and other chemicals and substances that could pose a threat to the public and workers at the site,” she says. “Fortunately, the vast majority of our tests find levels of these contaminants that pose no significant long term health risks to residents, business employees and visitors beyond Ground Zero. And despite recent press accounts which suggest otherwise, these findings have not changed. In fact, environmental conditions off the site have improved in recent weeks.” Callahan also says that people concerned about contamination in their homes “should follow the recommendations of the New York City Departments of Health and Environmental Protection on how to clean up properly” (see September 17, 2001). [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Kathleen Callahan

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 2’s legal counsel advises in a draft document (obtained by the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project through a Freedom of Information Act): “[AHERA] was developed to determine whether school buildings where asbestos was used are safe. Under this test, an air monitor pumps room air through a special filter for a specified amount of time. Then the number of asbestos ‘structures,’ or fibers, on a square millimeter of the filter are counted. If there are fewer than 70 such structures, the air is judged to be acceptable. EPA has used this same school-based standard to evaluate the safety of outside air in downtown Manhattan.” [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file] The EPA counsel’s statement is a misinterpretation of AHERA (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, appearing before Congress, states: “Under the provisions of PDD 62, signed by President Clinton in 1998, the EPA is assigned lead responsibility for cleaning up buildings and other sites contaminated by chemical or biological agents as a result of an act of terrorism. This responsibility draws on our decades of experience in cleaning up sites contaminated by toxins through prior practices or accidents.” Her deputy, Linda Fisher, will repeat this to Congress a week later (see December 5, 2001). [US Congress, 4/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency, US Congress

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Deputy EPA Administrator Linda Fisher, appearing before Congress, states: “Under the provisions of PDD 62, signed by President Clinton in 1998, the EPA is assigned lead responsibility for cleaning up buildings and other sites contaminated by chemical or biological agents as a result of an act of terrorism. This responsibility draws on our decades of experience in cleaning up sites contaminated by toxins through prior practices or accidents.” [US Congress, 12/5/2001]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Linda Fisher

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health John L. Henshaw writes in a letter to Mr. Lowell Peterson of the law firm, Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein, P.C., that since “materials containing asbestos were used in the construction of the Twin Towers, the settled dust from their collapse must be presumed to contain asbestos.” [US Department of Labor, 1/31/2005]

Entity Tags: John L. Henshaw, Lowell Peterson

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

R. Radhakrishnan, Director of the Asbestos Control Program in the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), sends letters to owners of buildings located within the zone of WTC contamination requesting “copies of the environmental hazard assessments including bulk sampling results and air monitoring results and a summary of cleanup activities” at their buildings within 5 days. The letter recalls that they had been advised in September (see September 16, 2001) to have their buildings professionally tested for asbestos and other contaminants. If tests proved positive for any dangerous contaminants, they were to have had them abated professionally. The letter also says that building owners “are responsible for the cleaning of building exteriors, grounds, and common areas.” The letter contains no reference to the federal regulations that govern asbestos and other hazardous materials. [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] The DEP makes no effort to enforce compliance with this request. By September 2002, only 354 of the roughly 1900 buildings that were required to provide the agency with data and documentation will have responded to Radhakrishnan’s request. Of those, 31 buildings will say they found dangerous levels of asbestos requiring professional abatement. Others will provide records that are incomplete or inadequate. The DEP does not issue a single citation for building owners or managers that do not respond. [Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler, 2/10/2003; New York Daily News, 9/11/2003]

Entity Tags: Radhakrishnan

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health, testifies before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and says: “The data from air quality tests thus far have been, in general, reassuring. None of the testing done to date has shown results that would indicate long term health impacts.” But his assessment is based on a flawed interpretation of the AHERA standard. He incorrectly (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004) says in the testimony that “the clearance/reoccupancy standard for indoor air in schools after an asbestos abatement project… is 70 structures of asbestos per square millimeter.” [New York City, 2/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Thomas R. Frieden

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Doug Lair, the supervisor of EPA On Scene Coordinator Charlie Fitzsimmon, in a letter to EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin, claims that Fitzsimmons spent only “two weeks in New York City in September” and that “he has minimal knowledge of the World Trade Center response activities conducted beyond the two weeks he spent there.” [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002] This statement contradicts evidence that Fitzsimmons and another OSC were actually at the WTC site for a longer period of time (see October 5, 2001) (see October 9, 2001-October 19, 2001).

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Charlie Fitzsimmons, Doug Lair

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA’s National Ombudsman’s office publishes a report criticizing the EPA’s response to the contamination that was caused by the destruction of the World Trade Center. Robert J. Martin, the EPA National Ombudsman, finds that the “EPA has neither fully used its legal authorities nor its existing hazardous materials response capabilities as a leader of the National Response System to aid the victims of the terrorist attack….” [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]
Observations -
bullet The EPA “initiated the National Contingency Plan (NCP) by mobilizing EPA On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) [from various locations in the US to work] in Lower Manhattan (see (8:50 a.m. EST) September 11, 2001) to sample indoor and outdoor air, dust and water to, among other things, determine the levels of contamination.”
bullet “[T]he United States Geological Survey (USGS) testified that the plume of contaminated dust from the attacks was highly caustic with pH readings at least as high as 12.1 (see September 20, 2001).”
bullet “The Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has concluded that all dust from the World Trade Center attack must be presumed to be asbestos containing material (ACM) (see January 31, 2002).”
bullet “During the last thirty years as a leader of the National Response System, EPA has used the National Contingency Plan as a framework to perform indoor air testing and remediation where there have been releases of hazardous material into homes, schools, and/or offices throughout the United States.”
Conclusions -
bullet “A clear reading of the definition of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), leads to the reasonable conclusion that all of the material, released from the attack may be a hazardous waste.”
bullet “[A]ny cleanup of this dust, should have been and must now be performed in Ml compliance with the OSHA regulations including but not limited to 29 CFR 1910 and 1926.”
bullet “The EPA is not being honest about the presence of EPA On Scene-Coordinators in New York (see October 5, 2001) (see October 9, 2001-October 19, 2001) (see March 11th, 2002).”
bullet “EPA has not fully discharged its duties under PDD (Presidential Directive) 62 (see November 28, 2001), the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see 1972), and the 2001 OMB Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism (see August 2001). EPA has abandoned its responsibilities for cleaning up buildings (both inside and out) that are contaminated, or that are being re-contaminated, as a result of the uncontrolled chemical releases from the World Trade Center terrorist attack.”
Recommendations -
bullet “EPA Region II should, pursuant to authorities under Presidential Directive PDD 62, and the National Contingency Plan (NCF) immediately clean the ducts and upgrade the ventilation systems to install high efficiency filtration at the Stuyvesant High School during spring break.”
bullet “EPA Region II should execute authorities under Presidential Directive PDB 62, the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and consistent with Administrator Whitman’s statement in Libby, Montana four days before the World Trade Center terrorist attack, issue legal guarantees to all building owners, building managers, local businesses, the New York City Board of Education, and condominium and coop owners to protect them from assuming the costs of cleanup from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.”
bullet “Consistent with Presidential Directive PDD 62, the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and Administrator Whitman’s statement in Libby, Montana four days before the World Trade Center terrorist attack, EPA Region II should cleanup all impacted buildings (interiors and exteriors) in conjunction with corresponding remediation at ‘ground zero.’”

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Robert J. Martin

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project collects dust samples at 150 Franklin Street at the request of one of the building’s tenants. He sends three samples to a lab which tests the dust for asbestos using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The lab finds asbestos levels of 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 percent. In September (see Shortly after September 17, 2001), the tenants had cleaned the building according to instructions provided by the city’s health department (see September 17, 2001). The building’s tenants—among them a family-run child care center—had relied on assurances from EPA and city officials that the downtown air was safe and consequently did not have the building professionally tested. After Kupferman notifies the city about these alarming results, the city tests the building using polarized light microscopy (PLM) on April 18 and does not find elevated asbestos levels. The city’s samples are retested by the EPA using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and found to have an asbestos level ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent. “We recommended that [the building] be professionally cleaned,” EPA spokesperson Mary Mears later says. [New York Daily News, 5/2/2002; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file; Salon, 8/15/2003]

Entity Tags: Joel R Kupferman, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) releases its “Report on Residential Air and Dust Sampling in Lower Manhattan,” which explains the agency found “low” levels of asbestos in 17.5 percent of the residential units sampled, 19.2 percent of the common area samples and 33 percent of the outdoor areas samples. But the study says there were extremely high levels of fibrous glass, which ranged from 2 to 15 percent in almost half the residential areas sampled and 64 percent of the outdoor samples. The ATSDR recommends “that people continue to conduct frequent cleaning with HEPA vacuums and damp cloths/mops to reduce the potential for exposure in accordance with NYC Department of Health (NYC DEP) guidance (see September 17, 2001).” But the NYC DEP’s instructions have been highly criticized (see September 17, 2001) (see September 22, 2001) and its recommendation to use a HEPA vacuum to remove asbestos contradicts previous EPA commissioned studies (see 1993) (see 1993). [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 5/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA Office of Research and Development releases a comprehensive study on pollution in and around Ground Zero titled, “Exposure and Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster.” The study concludes that the majority of residents and employees who returned to homes and offices after September 17 were “unlikely to suffer short-term or adverse health effects” from contaminants in the air. However the study warns that the thousands of people who were caught in the huge billowing dust clouds immediately after the towers collapsed, or who inhaled the air near the WTC site a few days after the attack, were “at risk for immediate acute [and possibly chronic] respiratory and other types of symptoms.” On page 77 of the report, the authors reveal that recorded dioxin levels from September through November were extremely high. For example, between October 12 and 29, a monitoring station on Park Row near City Hall Park recorded dioxin levels that averaged 5.6 parts per trillion/per cubic meter of air. This level is almost six times greater than the highest dioxin level ever recorded in the US, the report notes. The heaviest concentrations of dioxins were found at Ground Zero where concentrations “ranging from about 10 to 170” parts per trillion were recorded during the period between September 23 through November 21. Again the report observes that this figure is “between 100 and 1,500 times higher than typically found in urban air.” David Carpenter, MD, a researcher at State University of New York, tells the New York Daily News, “Those air levels are outrageous. There’s a very significant health danger here.” [New York Daily News, 12/31/2002]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) completes an interim report on the EPA’s response to the environmental disaster ensuing from the collapse and burning of the World Trade Center towers. [BNA Daily Environment Report, 3/20/2003] The EPA OIG’s final report will be released in August 2003 (see August 21, 2003).

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The Stone Street apartment of Bob and Diane Van Dyke is cleaned as part of the EPA’s volunteer residential cleaning program (see September 17, 2001). “Seven workers spent four hours on the 2,200 square foot space,” Salon magazine will report. “None of them wore the waist-level air monitors [EPA spokesperson Mary] Mears insisted all crews would have as a safety precaution. No one wore facemasks, respirators, or even plastic gloves, even though the site supervisor had determined that all of the Van Dykes’ upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding were contaminated and should be thrown out. Hot water was used to remove dust from ventilation grates; Murphy’s Oil was spread on the floors. The carpets, which remained, were not vacuumed using the wet methods prescribed on the EPA’s Web site. Neither were the drapes. HEPA vacuums were used, but when a hose abruptly popped off the machine and dust spewed onto the freshly vacuumed floor, the hose was simply reattached and the floor was not re-vacuumed. The cleaning process appeared no different from a standard housecleaning.” [Salon, 8/15/2003]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) releases its investigative report on the EPA’s response to the environmental consequences resulting from the collapse and burning of the World Trade Center towers. [BNA Daily Environment Report, 3/20/2003; Environmental Protection Agency, 8/21/2003 pdf file] The report, titled, “EPA’s Response to the World Trade Center Disaster Collapse: Challenges, Successes, and Areas for Improvement,” concludes:
bullet The agency did not have sufficient data to support its claim that air in Lower Manhattan following September 11 was “safe to breathe” (see January 5, 2006).
bullet The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) “heavily influenced” the EPA’s press releases, minimizing the risk to public health. Selected emails analyzed by OIG “indicated that CEQ dictated the content of early press releases” (see (September 12, 2001-December 31, 2001)).
bullet The EPA does not have an adequate system for reviewing and approving the content of EPA press releases.
bullet The EPA misled the public by failing to acknowledge that “health standards do not exist” for the cumulative simultaneous impact of exposure to more than one toxin and that the synergistic effects resulting from these combinations are not well-understood.
bullet The EPA Region 2 incorrectly applied AHERA and NESHAP asbestos standards as safety benchmarks when in fact these referred to the detection limits of certain testing methods (see (September 12, 2001)).
bullet The EPA failed to consider the short-term impacts of acute exposure to various toxins.
bullet The EPA lacked sufficient data on 10 of the 14 “pollutants of concern” identified by scientists as possible components of the WTC dust and debris.
bullet The EPA based its assessments on a risk standard of 1-in-10,000 for only some of carcinogenic pollutants thought to be contained in the clouds instead of the 1-in-1,000,000 acceptable-risk standard. It also ignored the agency’s traditional reliance on the 1-in-100,000 level, which usually triggers corrective action.
bullet The OIG determined there is “no evidence that EPA attempted to conceal data results from the public.” However, EPA scientist Cate Jenkins provides evidence the EPA and the City of New York DEP did in fact alter and in effect, conceal data results (see July 15, 2004).
bullet The OIG finds that the EPA should have implemented the National Contingency Program (see 1972), which would have given EPA jurisdiction over other government agencies and control over the issue of indoor air contamination. Critics of this report will argue that the EPA had in fact implemented the NCP immediately after the attacks (see After November 1, 2001).

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of the Inspector General (EPA), Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Cate Jenkins, a senior chemist in the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Identification Division, releases a memorandum arguing that “both EPA and NYC deliberately concealed, altered, falsified, and deleted data showing asbestos levels that both EPA and NYC declared unsafe.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

James Zadroga, a detective who worked on the recovery effort at Ground Zero following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, dies. Zadroga was 34. According to the first report into his death, by the Ocean County medical examiner, Zadroga dies from a “history of exposure to toxic fumes and dusts.” This is apparently the first death following a long-term illness related to work at the WTC site. [New York Times, 4/12/2006]

Entity Tags: James Zadroga

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

A report finds that the death of former New York City detective James Zadroga (see January 5, 2006) was caused by exposure to dust during rescue attempts at Ground Zero. The report, by Gerard Breton of the medical examiner’s office in Ocean County, New Jersey, says, “It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident.” Before completing the report, Breton did not consult with doctors who had tested or treated other first responders at Ground Zero, although he did talk to Zadroga’s physician. Neither did he test particles found in Zadroga’s lungs to compare them with the dust from the World Trade Center. Nevertheless, Breton says, “I cannot personally understand that anyone could see what I saw in the lungs, and know that the person was exposed to Ground Zero, and not make the same link I made.” [New York Times, 4/14/2006] His conclusion will be disputed. [New Yorker, 9/15/2008] The report may have a wider impact, as several lawsuits have been brought by first responders and downtown residents alleging that the toxic mixture of dust and fumes at Ground Zero was deadly. In addition, the report may mean Zadroga’s death should be classified as “in the line of duty,” meaning his survivors would be eligible for more benefits. [New York Times, 4/14/2006]

Entity Tags: James Zadroga, Gerard Breton

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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