Title Page Previous Next Contents | Part 3. Was environmental health protected on 9/11? Whistleblowers, watchdogs and wee little people >Criticisms of the EPA

Criticisms of the EPA

 

On the heels of these revelations, Rep. Jerrold Nadler charged that EPA had failed to protect the public health. He remarked that “New York was at the center of one of the most calamitous events in American history and the EPA has essentially walked away.” 

 

Rather than serving to inform the public on dangers to their health, Nadler claimed, EPA was continuously misinforming the public as to the safety of the conditions in downtown New York.

 

Although EPA Region II counsel Walter Mugdan, admitted that “...a significant number of the WTC bulk dust samples that we have analyzed did have more than one-percent asbestos,” the agency repeatedly claimed the opposite. He quoted an October 3, 2001 EPA memo claiming that the agency had found no “significant health risk” stating, “the vast majority of EPA and OSHA samples of air and dust analyzed for asbestos have been at levels that pose no significant health risk to residents and workers returning to their homes or area businesses.” Yet, charged Nadler, “This was one of the most often quoted EPA statements, and it continues to be echoed to this day.”

 

Nadler called on the federal EPA, which denied jurisdiction over indoor air hazards, to test and assure the safety of New York residences.

That went against EPA’s previously stated policy. Joe Martyak, spokesman for EPA in Administrator Christie Whitman’s office, said that already “there’s an enormous amount of money provided by the Presidential disaster declaration.” As to whether that money could be used to help in cleanup of homes and offices, however, Martyak notes, “indoor air is beyond EPA’s jurisdiction.” (13)

Nadler said that under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), EPA had authority to act on indoor air—and charged that EPA had not fully utilized the NCP in acting around Lower Manhattan. At the same time, he blasted EPA for on the one hand, by advising residents to clean dust- and debris-laden apartments with a wet mop or wet rag while it hired professional asbestos contractors with more stringent standards to clean its own local offices were cleaned by an asbestos contractor.

The Congressman also took aim at the various agencies passing health responsibilities around like some sort of shell game. “EPA allowed the City of New York to handle indoor air quality,” he testified before Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, saying EPA should have responded more quickly to concerns about indoor air.

“The City, in turn, delegated indoor air matters (testing and remediation) to individual building owners for indoor public spaces, and to tenants for indoor private spaces. The City provided little enforcement with respect to indoor public spaces and no enforcement with respect to indoor private spaces, and gave improper advice regarding hazardous materials testing and remediation,” Nadler testified.

 “As a result of the EPA's misleading statements about air quality and because it allowed the City of New York to handle matters related to indoor environments,” he continued, “there has been inadequate hazardous materials testing and remediation inside residential and commercial buildings downtown—putting the public health at risk.” (18)