Coalition Says Plan Is Designed To Reinforce EPA’s Longstanding Cover-up of 9/11 Hazards.
Paul Stein 917-664-5773
Stan Mark (212) 966-5932 x204
Today, as the EPA launches its latest, fatally flawed, WTC “Test and Clean” program for World Trade Center indoor contamination, it has posted a set of program-related documents on its website at www.epa.gov/wtc/testandclean. The new information confirms all of the Coalition’s worst suspicions and reinforces the fact that the current plan will repeat the same mistakes as the EPA cleanup of 2002-2003—and add a few new ones.
The earlier cleanup was poorly designed, technically and scientifically flawed, and far too limited. EPA excluded from the plan all workplaces, schools, and firehouses, as well as affected areas north of Canal Street and into Brooklyn. When the cleanup was over, only roughly 4,000 of the estimated 30,000 apartments below Canal Street had been tested or cleaned.
The new plan continues to disenfranchise workers by depriving them of the opportunity to request testing and cleanup, continues to exclude areas beyond Canal Street and into Brooklyn affected by the events of 9/11, continues to use grossly inadequate benchmarks for the testing of WTC contaminants, and continues EPA’s refusal to treat whole buildings as a system. The new mistakes include the grossly inadequate level of funding, only $7 million, and the over-reliance on testing of those surfaces likely to have been frequently cleaned such as kitchen counters and tabletops. The program is riddled with other insensitive and inappropriate testing methods, so that it will likely produce a systematic underestimate of any remaining contamination.
Catherine McVay Hughes, community liaison to the EPA’s own World Trade Center Expert Technical Review Panel, a group which harshly criticized an earlier, similar, version of new plan, said, “I can’t believe after the EPA Inspector General’s report in 2003, that EPA has created yet another plan that does not test HVAC rooms and ventilation systems. Downtown residents know that HVAC systems are a likely reservoir of contaminants. It’s unconscionable.”
Decrying the fact that only landlords can provide EPA with access to test in offices, Paul Stein, Health and Safety Chair, NY State Public Employees Federation, Division 199 said “It’s an outrage that the EPA has taken such a long time to come up with such an inadequate plan. It will not protect our members in their Lower Manhattan offices, and they will never know whether or not their workplaces are safe.”
Among one of the plan’s worst features is EPA’s decision to use air testing for asbestos and fiberglass (man-made vitreous fibers). This method was deemed completely inappropriate for testing contamination five years after 9/11 by the experts on the EPA’s own WTC Expert Technical Review Panel, early in the panel process. Now, EPA has reincorporated the incorrect method into the plan.
Micki Siegel de Hernandez, Labor Liaison to the EPA panel and the Health and Safety Director for the Communications Workers of America District One, responded: “This plan is a carefully crafted scam that allows EPA to complete its circle of lies—Christy Todd Whitman lied about the air being safe and, now, this plan will allow the agency to lie about remaining indoor contamination.
EPA’s continued failure to address the presence of contamination in workplaces shows an appalling disregard for the health of workers. EPA is not giving us the program that we need. With this plan, EPA will wash its hands of a major public health problem that it has refused to face for the last 5 years.”
Stan Mark, Program Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund said “The EPA’s current program is not a clean-up plan but a cover-up plan. The boundaries for the plan have no scientific basis and reflect the fact that the whole plan is not scientifically based. There has never been any data to support the exclusion of Chinatown, the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, but the Canal St. boundary remains in the current plan.”
Rob Spencer, Staff Representative of the Organization of Staff Analysts, a union representing municipal employees, said, “The message from EPA to workers remains drop dead. The EPA has chosen to ignore its own IGs recommendations, the recommendations of its Expert Technical Panel, in fact, of anyone who takes seriously the health and safety of affected residents, workers, and students.”
The fact that an earlier, but nearly identical, version of the EPA plan was denounced by its EPA Expert Technical Review Panel is documented in a video clip drawn from footage of the final EPA WTC panel meeting, now up on YouTube. Sponsored by 9/11 Environmental Action, a member organization of the WTC Community-Labor Coalition, the clip was debuted as part of the testimony by representatives of the Coalition at last Thursday’s City Council hearing on the EPA plan. Here’s the link:
“This plan seems tailor-made to shore-up the EPA cover-up. For EPA to spend $7 million dollars to conduct more fake testing at a time when the federal government is refusing to address the health impacts to the community, and even threatening to refuse further funding for sick workers, is the cruelest of ironies,” said Kimberly Flynn, Co-Coordinator, 9/11 Environmental Action.