Labor and Community Reps: This plan is even worse than the version we rejected in December 2005. We cannot support it.
The World Trade Center Community-Labor Coalition today condemned as fatally flawed, rigged, and irresponsible, the test and clean program for 9/11-related indoor contamination that was released on December 6 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The coalition expressed outrage that, under the guise of responding to the communitys legitimate and longstanding concerns about the safety of their homes, schools and workplaces, the agency is, in fact, abandoning its responsibility to protect the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who may still be at risk from exposure to World Trade Center indoor contamination.
After the EPA’s botched 2002-3 cleanup effort came under withering criticism in a 2003 report from the EPA’s Inspector General, and in response to calls from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the EPA convened the World Trade Center Expert Technical Review Panel in 2004. The Panel was charged with assessing and addressing the remaining risks from indoor 9/11 contamination to residents and workers in Lower Manhattan and other areas affected by the toxic plume from the World Trade Center collapse.
For more than 21 months, the agency claimed to be working in concert with the Panel and community and labor representatives to develop a scientifically sound plan that would find and eliminate WTC-related hazards in apartments and workplaces, and protect the health of area residents, workers and students.
But, at the end of 2005, EPA prematurely shut down the Panel process and issued a draft test and clean plan, which its own Expert Review Panel rejected as unsound. The plan EPA has now delivered in most respects is substantially the same, but in some key areas, this plan is even worse.
Among its many flaws, the new plan:
- Disenfranchises workers by depriving them of the opportunity to request testing and cleanup.
- Limits testing to the area below Canal Street, omitting affected areas of Brooklyn.
- Fails to test for hazards in HVAC systems, which are known reservoirs of contamination.
- Uses inappropriate and insensitive methods that will lead to wrong results. Bad data will be used by the EPA to give New Yorkers more false assurances.
- With a budget of only $7 million, provides grossly insufficient financial resources to test and clean all potentially affected residences and workplaces.
All three Community Boards representing Lower Manhattan, CBs # 1, 2 and 3, along with the New York City Council, in formal resolutions, rejected the November 2005 version of the plan, which is substantially identical to the final plan as released.
The Coalition, a broad network representing hundreds of thousands of stakeholders in Lower Manhattan, including community groups, labor unions, tenants associations and advocacy organizations, participated for 21 months in the EPA panel process, with the goal of developing a sound and effective testing and cleanup plan.
Coalition representatives today were united in their opposition to the EPAs current plan.
Catherine McVay Hughes, Community Liaison to the EPA panel, Financial District resident and mom said, “The December 2006 is even worse than the one the technical panel experts rejected a year ago. The current plan will not test building ventilation systems AT ALL. The EPAs own Inspector General and experts on the EPA’s Panel stated that buildings should be tested and cleaned as a whole — including ventilation systems which were never cleaned after 9/11 — otherwise, you are just re-circulating contamination. But EPA says, in effect, that its too expensive. The EPAs current approach to HVACs is utterly irresponsible. We predict that no HVAC systems in downtown buildings will be cleaned under this plan.”
Paul Stein, Health and Safety Chair, NY State Public Employees Federation, Division 199 said, “Its 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.”
Micki Siegel de Hernandez, Labor Liaison to the EPA panel and the Health and Safety Officer for Communications Workers of America District One, responded: “This plan is a carefully crafted scam to perpetuate EPA’s long-standing coverup of the truth. Their 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. EPA instead is attempting to 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 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.”
Lila Nordstrom, StuyHealth said, “This plan does not answer the concerns of students in lower Manhattan. In not taking the needs and concerns of the community seriously, the EPA is risking the creation of a whole new group of 9/11 victims. Thus far, our government has failed to take care of the health needs of existing 9/11 victims and the EPA’s neglect may yet create more. The new plan is being implemented on far too small a scale, meeting only a fraction of the real need for testing and cleanup, and is being totally under-funded. This is too little, too late.”
Kimberly Flynn, Co-coordinator of 9/11 Environmental Action, a community-based organization that spearheaded community participation in the EPA panel process observed, “Five years after 9/11 many area residents, including children, are sick in serious and lasting ways. We will hold EPA fully accountable for its failure to protect peoples health.”
Rob Spencer, Staff Representative of the Organization of Staff Analysts, a union representing municipal employees, said, “It is outrageous, that, more than five years after 9/11, this is the best EPA can come up with. The message from EPA to workers remains drop dead. The EPA has chosen to ignore their 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.”