Volume 18 • Issue 29 | December 2 - 8, 2005


E.P.A.’s new testing plan: another in a long line of failures

It helps to remember some chronology to understand the extent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s bad faith and shameless decisions this week regarding the environmental fallout from 9/11. Two years ago, Sen. Hillary Clinton got the agency to agree to appoint a panel to come up with a way to retest apartments for toxic chemicals from the collapse of the World Trade Center. This was in response to legitimate criticisms of the E.P.A.’s original program.

On Tuesday, the E.P.A. announced the new testing plan: It will not include any apartments tested and cleaned the first time. One of the primary reasons the panel was convened has been completely undermined. The E.P.A. will not lift a finger to try and assure the Lower Manhattan community that it did a good job checking our apartments the first time.

When the panel of independent and E.P.A. experts was named in March 2004, Clinton said it was “a good faith effort” on the part of the E.P.A. to make up for its mistakes after 9/11.

She seemed to be right. The next month, panel members said they wanted to expand the testing program to include Downtown offices as well as apartments in Brooklyn and north of Canal St. to assess how far the contamination traveled. The E.P.A.’s new plan is to exclude these workers and residents leaving them to continue to wonder and worry. Some of these buildings further away from the site were covered in W.T.C. dust after 9/11 and it is irresponsible of the E.P.A. to not test a sample of these buildings and try and get evidence to support or disprove their claim that people living in Downtown Brooklyn and the Lower East Side are not breathing unsafe air.

The evidence that Downtowners are living or working in places still dangerously contaminated from the World Trade Center is not there. It may very well be that our apartments and offices are safe again — but we don’t know that. There are additional tests the E.P.A. could do to give us not certainty, but more assurances. That’s what responsible members of the panel, Clinton, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler and others have been calling for continuously.

Nadler, who has led the post-9/11 environmental charge for four years, calls the E.P.A.’s latest announcement a “sham plan.” He is right, and is not the only one to find serious flaws in the plan. The independent peer review panel said essentially the same thing about the plan a few months ago, couching their language in diplomatic scientese.

The E.P.A. plans to approve the sham, dissolve the panel and start to wash their hands of their mess Dec. 13. Maybe they’re hoping for a “Brownie, heck of a job” note from the president too. Their job is not done here or in Brooklyn. The best way to stop the charade from proceeding is to embarrass the bureaucrats by protesting in large, large numbers — there is likely to be a rally outside the last panel meeting, at One Bowling Green 9 a.m. Dec. 13 — and then to keep up the pressure on the E.P.A. for environmental protection.


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