The Center for Grassroots Oversight

This page can be viewed at

Context of '(January 13, 2002): EPA Says It Is Not Responsible for Testing Homes and Businesses'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event (January 13, 2002): EPA Says It Is Not Responsible for Testing Homes and Businesses. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

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)

The EPA designates 232 homes and businesses in Lorain County, Ohio as Superfund sites. The buildings had been illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion by an exterminator. (Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5 9/30/1999 pdf file) The cleanup is performed by the EPA in collaboration with other federal agencies. “Many of the homes had to have wallboard, carpeting, and baseboards removed when repeated surface cleaning failed to remove trace amounts of methyl parathion,” a report in Environmental Health Perspectives explains. “Residents had to be temporarily relocated, personal items replaced, and transportation to schools and workplaces provided.” (Rubin et al. 12/2002) The cleanup cost taxpayers more than $20 million. (Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5 9/30/1999 pdf file)

The EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) discover more than 1,100 homes in Jackson County, Mississippi that were sprayed with methyl parathion illegally by Reuben Brown, an unlicensed exterminator. The EPA designates the homes as Superfund sites and oversees a $50 million cleanup. More than 1,600 people will be relocated during the cleanup. (Environmental Protection Agency 9/11/1998; Rubin et al. 12/2002; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)

The EPA designates more than 98 homes in the Chicago area as a Superfund site. The homes had been illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion by Reuben Brown, an unlicensed exterminator. The homes are decontaminated at a cost of around $7.5 million. (Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5 9/30/1999 pdf file; Rubin et al. 12/2002; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)

The EPA begins removing asbestos from private homes in Libby, Montana where a nearby mining operation contaminated the surrounding area (see November 21, 1999). The EPA conducts the cleanup operation under the authority of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see 1972). (Jenkins 12/3/2001 pdf file; Jenkins 1/11/2002 pdf file; Kupferman 2003 pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency 7/26/2004) In some cases, it will be necessary for the EPA to take extreme measures to ensure that asbestos levels in certain homes meet EPA standards. For example, the agency will have to completely demolish one home and rebuild it after the standard procedures of replacing carpets, upholstered furniture, and professional abatement fail to reduce the presence of asbestos to an acceptable level. (Jenkins 7/4/2003 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 will repeatedly claim that it does not have jurisdiction or oversight over indoor tests or cleanups of residences and businesses. Critics who disagree note that:
bullet The EPA’s response to the 9/11 attacks were coordinated under the authority of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see (8:50 a.m. EST) September 11, 2001), which requires that when the EPA delegates any tasks to state or local authorities, the agency ensures that their responses are in accordance with EPA standards (see 1972). Therefore, according to the NCP, the EPA does have jurisdiction over inside air.
bullet Shortly before the 9/11 attacks, the EPA commenced the abatement of homes in Libby, Montana where a nearby mining operation had contaminated the surrounding area (see (August 2001)). Libby asbestos remediation commenced under the authority of the National Contingency Plan (NCP). (Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) In Libby, the highest level of asbestos found in a home was 3,658 structures per square centimeter (s/cm (Chatfield and Kominsky 10/12/2001 pdf file; Lyman 1/11/2002; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) In December, the EPA will “fast-track” the Libby site to a place on the National Priorities List as a Superfund site after a request from Montana’s governor (see December 20, 2001). In New York, Governor Pataki will make no similar request for the areas affected by World Trade Center collapse. (Kupferman 2003 pdf file; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)
bullet The EPA is taking responsibility for the indoor environmental conditions at numerous contaminated sites across the US, including at Herculaneum, Missouri; McFarland, California; and Kellogg, Idaho. (Congressional Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler 1/7/2002)
bullet The EPA has decontaminated more than 1400 homes and businesses in Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio after the buildings were illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion (see January 1995) (see April 1997) (see November 1996).

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.” (Gonzalez 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.” (Gonzalez 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.

Montana Governor Judy Martz announces that she will use the Silver Bullet option to fast-track the designation of Libby, Montana (see (August 2001)) as an EPA Superfund site and put it on the National Priorities list. The designation makes Libby eligible for special funding from industry sources. (State of Montana 12/20/2001; Kupferman 2003 pdf file)

Joe Martyak, spokesman for EPA in Administrator Christie Todd Whitman’s office, tells MSNBC that “indoor air is beyond EPA’s jurisdiction.” (Lyman 1/11/2002) Martyak’s assertion is contradicted by recent EPA activities and the agency’s obligations under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see After November 1, 2001).

Bonnie Bellow, spokeswoman for the EPA’s region II office in New York tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the EPA is not responsible for testing homes and businesses. “That’s not our job and we have no policies or procedures for doing that type of testing,” she claims. “We’ve never had to worry about asbestos in houses before.” (Schneider 1/13/2002; Schneider 1/14/2002) Bellow’s statement is contradicted by the EPA’s record and the agency’s obligations under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see After November 1, 2001).

An unnamed EPA Region II spokeswoman is cited in the Downtown Express stating, “The EPA’s job was to monitor outdoor air. Monitoring indoors—that wasn’t our job. That’s what the city took care of.” This assertion is contradicted by the EPA’s record and the agency’s obligations under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see After November 1, 2001). According to the paper she adds that she felt the city had done a good job of testing and monitoring indoor air. (Rogers 1/22/2002 pdf file; Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler 4/12/2002 pdf file)

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. (Herzfeld 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).

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike