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Context of 'September 20, 2001: US Geological Survey Finds Asbestos, ‘Alphabet Soup of Heavy Metals’ in Ground Zero Dust'

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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

NESHAP regulations require use of the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) method to determine whether asbestos-derived wastes are asbestos free: “Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) shall be used to analyze the output material for the presence of asbestos.” In order to be considered “asbestos-free,” TEM results must indicate that the waste contains no asbestos. [US Code, Vol. 40, sec. 61.155] The TEM method is far superior to polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing, a less expensive method that is often used to test for the presence of asbestos in bulk building material. The PLM method is limited by relatively weak magnification (100-400x) and it is sometimes unable to distinguish asbestos material from other materials like tar and petroleum binding components that may also be present in the building material. As a result of these deficiencies, the PLM method cannot reliably detect asbestos at concentrations of less than 1 percent and it is incapable of detecting asbestos fibers that are less than .25 micrometers in width. [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file] TEM uses 20,000X or greater magnifications as well as powerful chemical (EDXA) and mineralogical (SAEDP) tools. Not only can TEM differentiate asbestos from non-asbestos fibers, but it can also distinguish one species of asbestos from another. [International Asbestos Testing Lab, 1/12/2006]

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

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]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Reuben Brown, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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]

Entity Tags: Reuben Brown, Environmental Protection Agency

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 EPA sets up more than 30 fixed air-quality monitors in and around Ground Zero as well as regional monitors in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island to test for the presence of certain contaminants. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/9/2005] More than 30 such air monitors are also positioned at various locations in the Staten Island Landfill, where the WTC debris will be taken. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/9/2005] Additionally, both the EPA and OSHA operate portable sampling equipment to collect data from a variety of other surrounding locations. [Environmental Protection Agency, 6/4/2002 pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency, 3/23/2005; Environmental Protection Agency, 3/25/2005] The equipment, however, does not test the air for fiberglass, a common building material and a known carcinogen [Occupational Hazards, 1/25/2002] , or mercury in airborne dusts (although they do test for mercury in its vapor state). [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] Critics will argue that monitoring outdoor air is insufficient since it will ultimately be diluted because of wind and diffusion—unlike indoor air, which clings to fabrics and is trapped within walls. [International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, 1/21/2002] Aside from a few exceptions (see September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001), the EPA will use the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method for counting asbestos fibers instead of electron microscope technology (see September 12, 2001) which provides far more accurate results. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/28/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2002]

Entity Tags: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency

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

A dust sample is taken by EPA employees as they flee the collapsing buildings. The samples are later tested and found to contain an asbestos level of 4.5 percent. [Newsweek, 9/14/2001; Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

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 Region 2 hires an industrial hygienist to test the lobby of its building at 290 Broadway St. for the presence of asbestos. The building is located 6 blocks northeast of the World Trade Center site. Some of the settled dust samples collected with a micro-vac and analyzed using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) reveal the presence of chrysotile asbestos. Light microscope tests are also used to analyze the dust, but these tests turn up negative. [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] Air monitoring also reveals the presence of asbestos:
bullet 20 s/mm [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]
bullet 20 s/mm [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]
bullet 60 s/mm [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]
bullet 60 s/mm [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file] The discovery of asbestos at the building prompts EPA Region 2 to have the building professionally abated. [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] The EPA later states that micro-vac collection of dust samples (one of the preferred methods of obtaining samples) and TEM testing are not necessary for schools and residences in Lower Manhattan. At 105 Duane Street, the EPA will even discount results obtained by micro-vac collection and TEM tests when they contradict the agency’s own results (see December 3, 2001). [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Rainstorms in New York City produce run-off with “elevated PCB and dioxin levels.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/21/2001]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman says with regard to Manhattan’s air quality, “[T]here is no reason for concern.” She says that her agency is regularly sampling airborne particles and that findings indicate that most locations have an asbestos level of less than one percent—the amount above which the EPA considers a material to be “asbestos-containing”—but notes that the highest recorded reading so far was 4.5 percent (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001)). [Newsday, 9/16/2001] But the EPA is wrong to use the one percent level as if it were a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)). Furthermore, its test results are not accurate, as they are based on the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method which is incapable of identifying fine fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when it is present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990).

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

NASA’s de Havilland Twin Otter propeller plane makes 14 passes over the region affected by the WTC collapse. The infrared-scanning AVIRIS unit, located underneath the plane, records infrared signatures of minerals reflected from the ground (see September 12, 2001). After the flight, the data tapes are sent to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena where NASA scientists Robert Green and Frank Loiza are waiting to review the data. The tapes arrive 2 a.m. the next morning. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Frank Loiza, Robert Green

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

US Geological Survey (USGS) geophysicists Gregg Swayze and Todd Hoefen fly to New York City to get calibration data from the ground that will supplement the data collected by AVIRIS (see 12:00 p.m. September 16, 2001-2:00 a.m. September 17, 2001). They collect 35 dust samples from a variety of locations around Ground Zero including window ledges, flower pots and car windshields. While “AVIRIS offers a bird’s-eye view…,” Roger Clark, a USGS astrophysicist, later explains to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The ground samples… gave us up-close, specific information on specific points.” On September 19 they send their data to the USGS office in Denver over the Internet. The next day, scientists will begin conducting a variety of tests on the samples (see September 20, 2001). [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Roger Clark, Gregg Swayze, Todd Hoefen

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

At the White House’s request, NASA’s de Havilland Twin Otter prop plane, equipped with the AVIRIS unit (see September 12, 2001), conducts additional flights over Manhattan (see 12:00 p.m. September 16, 2001-2:00 a.m. September 17, 2001), collecting data on the chemical composition of the dust and debris that was distributed throughout the city when the World Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

US Geological Survey (USGS) scientists begin performing tests on the dust samples collected by USGS geophysicists, Gregg Swayze and Todd Hoefen, during the previous three days (see September 17, 2001-September 19, 2001-). Roger Clark (the astrophysicist who heads the AVIRIS program at USGS), Gregg Swayze, Todd Hoefen and Eric Livo (another USGS scientist) analyze samples in the Imaging Spectroscopy Lab and Gregory Meeker (head of the USGS’s microbeam laboratory) views samples with the scanning electron microscope and conducts energy dispersive spectroscopy. Other USGS scientists study the samples using X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, as well as chemical analysis and chemical leach testing. Within hours, the results from the various tests indicate the presence of asbestos and an “alphabet soup of heavy metals.” Each of the different techniques used to determine the chemical components of the dust “back each other up,” Swayze later explains to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Some techniques can see more than others, and we were throwing in every technique we had in house,” he says. Tests revealed the dust to be extremely alkaline with a pH of 12.1 (out of 14). [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002] and that some of it was as caustic as liquid drain cleaner. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002] “We were startled at the pH level we were finding,” Swayze adds. “We knew that the cement dust was caustic, but we were getting pH readings of 12 and higher. It was obvious that precautions had to be taken to protect the workers and people returning to their homes from the dust.” Sam Vance, an environmental scientist with the EPA, sends the results to officials at the EPA, the New York health department and US Public Health Service. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Roger Clark, US Geological Service, Todd Hoefen, Steve Sutley, Joe Taggart, Eric Livo, Robert Green, Phil Hageman, Geoffrey Plumlee, Gregg Swayze, Gregory Meeker

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman assures New Yorkers that environmental conditions in Manhattan—both inside and outside—are safe, and provides a summary of the tests that have so far been performed on the city’s air and drinking water.
Water - Whitman says: “As we continue to monitor drinking water in and around New York City, and as EPA gets more comprehensive analysis of this monitoring data, I am relieved to be able to reassure New York and New Jersey residents that a host of potential contaminants are either not detectable or are below the Agency’s concern levels. Results we have just received on drinking water quality show that not only is asbestos not detectable, but also we can not detect any bacterial contamination, PCBs or pesticides.” She does say however that “following one rainstorm with particularly high runoff, we did have one isolated detection of slightly elevated levels of PCBs (see September 14, 2001).”
Outdoor air - Whitman says that outdoor air sampling does not indicate the existence of significant public health risks. This claim is based on results obtained using the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method (see September 12, 2001) which is incapable of identifying ultra-fine fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990). Even though Whitman denies a significant risk to public health, she does say “seven samples taken at or near Ground Zero have had marginally higher levels of asbestos that exceed EPA’s level of concern,” and that her agency has “done a total of 101 dust samples, of which 37 were slightly over the one percent asbestos.” Whitman does not mention that the EPA’s “level of concern” is not a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)) but rather the detection limit of the polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method (see November 20, 1990).
Indoor air - Whitman claims, “New Yorkers and New Jerseyans need not be concerned about environmental issues as they return to their homes and workplaces.” But the EPA has no data indicating that indoor air is actually safe. The only indoor tests that have been conducted by the EPA were in the EPA’s Region 2 offices located in the Federal Building and a few neighboring buildings—and the results from several of these tests were positive for chrysotile asbestos (see September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001). [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/21/2001; Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman

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

After USGS scientists complete their analysis of the dust samples collected in New York City (see September 17, 2001-September 19, 2001-) —which found asbestos, an “alphabet soup of heavy metals,” and an extremely high pH level (see September 20, 2001) —the team emails the results to “all the government contacts the team had” including people at the EPA and FEMA, as well as to the federal emergency response coordinator. The EPA never informs the public of the dust’s high pH. “We anticipated that the results would have been shared with the people on the ground, those at risk, but it looks like the information never got to those who needed it,” Geoffrey Plumlee, a geochemist, will later tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. [US Geological Survey, 11/27/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; US Geological Survey, 10/2002 pdf file] Some scientists will suggest that the dust’s high pH is a major cause of what will come to be known as the “WTC cough” (see September 9, 2002).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Geological Service

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and John Henshaw, US Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for OSHA, announce that their two agencies “have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents, visitors or workers beyond the immediate World Trade Center area.” But later in the statement, they acknowledge that to date, “Of 177 bulk dust and debris samples collected by EPA and OSHA and analyzed for asbestos, 48 had levels over 1 percent, the level EPA and OSHA use to define asbestos-containing material.” Additionally, they say that out “of a total of 442 air samples EPA has taken at Ground Zero and in the immediate area, only 27 had levels of asbestos above the standard EPA uses to determine if children can re-enter a school after asbestos has been removed….” [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, John L. Henshaw

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

Eric Chatfield, Ph.D., and John R. Kominsky of Chatfield Technical Consulting Limited, frequently contracted by EPA, complete a report analyzing the particulate matter found in two Manhattan apartments. The report was commissioned by the Ground Zero Task Force, whose members include US Congressman Jerrold Nadler as well as numerous state and city officials. The study found “significantly elevated” concentrations of asbestos in dust samples taken from the apartment interiors of the two buildings. The highest asbestos reading from the “low-exposure” building located at 45 Warren St was 316 structures/square mm (s/mm [Chatfield and Kominsky, 10/12/2001 pdf file; Jenkins, 12/3/2001 pdf file; Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file] The EPA will neither comment on, nor take any action with respect to, these findings. [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: John R. Kominsky, Eric Chatfield, Chatfield Technical Consulting Limited

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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; MSNBC, 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).

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

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

After the New York City Department of Health tests Tribeca Tower at 105 Duane Street for asbestos and finds nothing, the building’s residents contact Attorney Joel R Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project (NYELJP) for assistance. Certified industrial hygienist, Ed Olmstead, collects dusts samples for Kupferman using a micro-vac. Analysis is conducted using the highly sensitive transmission electron microscope (TEM) method. The tests results reveal high concentrations of asbestos. A sample taken from a hallway ventilation duct that circulates air throughout the building is found to contain 550,000 structures of asbestos per square centimeter. When confronted with these results, the EPA claims the hygienist’s testing method was unsound and that the results were an aberration. The landlord of the building, citing EPA and DEP assurances that the test results could be ignored, refuses to appropriately abate the building. [Jenkins, 12/3/2001 pdf file; Washington Post, 1/8/2002; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file; Salon, 8/15/2003]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Protection Agency, Ed Olmstead

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

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]

Entity Tags: Judy Martz

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Joe Martyak, spokesman for EPA in Administrator Christie Todd Whitman’s office, tells MSNBC that “indoor air is beyond EPA’s jurisdiction.” [MSNBC, 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).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Joe Martyak

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Dr. Cate Jenkins writes a memorandum comparing the data from a major asbestos-contaminated site in Libby, Montana—where the EPA tested and cleaned homes (see (August 2001)) —to that of the WTC disaster site where the EPA has so far refused to take responsibility for the abatement of private residences. She argues that Lower Manhattan should be designated a Superfund site, as was Libby, Montana (see December 20, 2001), in order to reduce the public’s exposure to harmful substances such as asbestos, fiberglass, fine particulates, mercury and lead. Superfund designation would shift the financial burden from individual citizens to the government. In the memo, she also summarizes the calculated cancer risks for people occupying Lower Manhattan buildings. [Jenkins, 1/11/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/13/2002; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 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).

Entity Tags: Bonnie Bellow, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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. [Downtown Express, 1/22/2002 pdf file; Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file]

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

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

At a New York Academy of Medicine briefing, doctors discuss how the environmental conditions at Ground Zero during the recovery effort have so far impacted the health of those who worked at the site. Dr. Steven Levin of the Occupational Medical Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center explains that several of the more than 1,000 workers he has seen “have developed inflammatory responses” in their lungs and adds that he has seen only a few recover. Dr. Kerry Kelly, chief medical officer for the NYC Fire Department, says that while only 3 percent of New York City firefighters had respiratory problems prior to September 11, this number has since increased to 15.6 percent. Another speaker at the briefing, Lung Chi Chen of the NYU Department of Environmental Medicine, suggests that either the pulverized glass, the high pH level (see September 20, 2001), or a combination of the two, probably causes the World Trade Center cough. “We can show that human cells can tolerate acidic exposure very well,” Chen says in an interview. “But the cell cannot tolerate alkali exposure. You shift the pH up and the impact is devastating.” [Newsday, 9/10/2002; Newsday, 9/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Kerry Kelly, Lung Chi Chen, Stephen Levin MD

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 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

The Bush administration imposes what reporter and author Charlie Savage will later call “unprecedented controls” on scientists working with the US Geological Survey (USGS), an agency that studies environmental issues such as global warming and endangered species. Now, USGS scientists must submit research papers and prepared speeches to White House officials for approval prior to dissemination. The rules also require the scientists to let the public affairs office know about “findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.” USGS scientists say that the restrictions mean that government officials are monitoring and censoring their work. “The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research,” says Jim Estes, a marine biologist who has worked for USGS since the 1970s. “But to me it feels like they’re doing this to keep us under their thumbs.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 106-107]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), US Geological Survey, Jim Estes, Charlie Savage

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming, Domestic Propaganda

The US Geological Survey establishes new rules requiring the screening of all facts and interpretations by agency scientists. The rules say that the USGS’s communications office must be “alerted about information products containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature.” Such “products” include all public documents, even minor reports or prepared talks. P. Patrick Leahy, USGS’s head of geology and its acting director, insists the new requirements are being implemented to improve scientists’ accountability, maintain their neutrality, and “harmonize” the review process. Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist in the USGS field station at Santa Cruz, Calif, disagrees. “I feel as though we’ve got someone looking over our shoulder at every damn thing we do,” he says, adding that he thinks the motivation behind the new rules is “to keep us under their thumbs. It seems like they’re afraid of science. Our findings could be embarrassing to the administration.” [Associated Press, 12/13/2006]

Entity Tags: P. Patrick Leahy, US Geological Service, Jim Estes

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Civil Liberties

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