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Context of 'November 13, 2001: Released Documents Show Errors in Ground Zero Tests'

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The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues its Interim Asbestos NESHAP Enforcement Guidance on “Friable Asbestos,” which clarifies the definition and acceptable use of “asbestos-containing” materials. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), issued in 1973, defined “asbestos-containing materials,” or ACMs, as products that contain more than 1 percent asbestos by weight. Citing the original document, the guidance explains that NESHAP’s purpose was to “ban the use of materials which contain significant quantities of asbestos, but to allow the use of materials which would (1) contain trace amounts of asbestos that occur in numerous natural substances, and (2) include very small quantities of asbestos (less than 1 percent) added to enhance the material’s effectiveness.” However, the guidance stresses, the “EPA NESHAP definition of 1 percent by weight was not established to be a health-based standard.” [Stewart, 4/18/1989 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA issues a pamphlet answering common questions on the Asbestos NESHAP regulations (see April 18, 1989). One question asks: “Is there a numeric emission limit for the release of asbestos fibers during renovations or demolitions in the asbestos NESHAP regulation?” The EPA answers that although there is no numeric emission limit, NESHAP “does specify zero visible emissions to the outside air from activity relating to the transport and disposal of asbestos waste.” In other words, if any emissions are visible during transport or disposal, the level of asbestos is unsafe. [Environmental Protection Agency, 12/1990]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

A study commissioned by the EPA, “Evaluation of Three Cleaning Methods for Removing Asbestos from Carpet,” finds that available methods of asbestos removal from carpets and upholstery are incapable of effectively removing the fibers. “The wet cleaning method reduced the level of asbestos contamination in the carpet by approximately 60 percent, whereas neither dry cleaning method had any notable effect on the asbestos level,” the report says. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1993; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The World Trade Center twin towers collapse—the south tower at 9:59 a.m. and the north tower half an hour later at 10:28 a.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002] The collapses create huge dust clouds that roll through the streets of Lower Manhattan, breaking windows and forcing dust and debris into the interior of surrounding buildings.
Composition of dust - Chemicals and materials present in the billowing clouds include pulverized plaster, paint, foam, glass fibers and fragments, fiberglass, cement, vermiculite (used as a fire retardant instead of asbestos), chrysotile asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans, pesticides, phthalate esters, brominated diphenyl ethers, cotton fibers and lint, tarry and charred wood, soot, rubber, paper and plastic. [Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Online, 9/15/2001; CNN, 11/4/2001; Lioy et al., 7/2002; US Geological Survey, 10/2002 pdf file] The dust has an extremely high pH. [US Geological Survey, 11/27/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]
Distribution of dust and debris - The debris will be distributed very unevenly throughout the city because of their varying weights. Dusts containing relatively heavy components, such as pulverized concrete and glass, will settle near the World Trade Center, whereas dust containing lighter components, like asbestos, will fall to the ground in greater relative concentrations at a further distance. Heavy metals—including zinc, strontium, lead and aluminum—will also be deposited a relatively large distance away from the disaster site. [Lioy et al., 7/2002; US Geological Survey, 10/2002 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]
Composition of smoke/debris plume - Combustible materials buried in the rubble of the towers provides fuel for a fire that will burn until December. Many of the materials are made of substances that when burned release highly toxic fumes. According to Thomas Cahill, a professor of physics and engineering, “The debris pile acted like a chemical factory. It cooked together the components and the buildings and their contents, including enormous numbers of computers, and gave off gases of toxic metals, acids, and organics for at least six weeks.” [BBC, 9/10/2003; Reuters, 9/11/2003]
bullet The two towers contained as many as 50,000 personal computers, each containing small amounts of mercury and about 4 lbs of lead. The towers also contained roughly 300 mainframe computers. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]
bullet Thousands of fluorescent lamps in the buildings contained mercury. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]
bullet Thousands of chairs and other office furniture contained chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which pose dangers similar to PCBs. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file]
bullet Several of the WTC’s tenants are known to have had toxic materials on site. For example, there was a Secret Service shooting range that kept millions of rounds of lead ammunition on hand. And a US Customs lab had in its inventory thousands of pounds of arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, and other toxic substances. [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]
bullet Other products in the buildings included synthetic fabrics, plastics, laminates, the di-electric fluids that encase electrical cables, capacitors, electrical cable insulation and transformers. The toxins resulting from the combustion of these materials include toxic lead, volatile organic compounds, dioxins (see December 27, 2002), mercury, nickel, vandium, sulphur, PAHs, PCBs and furans. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file]
Distribution of smoke/debris plume - The aerosol plume will move from the WTC site in Lower Manhattan directly over Brooklyn where it will drop much of its toxic debris, contaminating the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Park Slope and beyond. New York City Council member David Yassky, who is in Brooklyn campaigning on this day, will later recount in an interview with Newsday, “There was a film of dust on everything—on cars, stores, everywhere in Brooklyn Heights. If you were there, as I was, you saw several hours of debris rain down on your neighborhood.” [Newsday, 8/23/2002; Newsday, 9/30/2002]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The City of New York samples air at Centre and Chambers St. (7 blocks Northeast of Ground Zero perimeter, east of Broadway) and Spruce and Gold St. (7 to 8 blocks Northeast of Ground Zero perimeter, east of Broadway). Both of these sites are upwind from the World Trade Center disaster site. TEM tests reveal that these air samples have high levels of asbestos fibers suspended in the air—123.73 s/mm2 at Centre and Chambers St., and 157.48 s/mm2 at Spruce and Gold St. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file] Neither the City of New York nor the EPA will warn residents about these alarming asbestos levels. When the city publishes results of its polarized light microscopy (PLM) tests on October 24 (see October 24, 2001), it does not include these sampling results, or even mention that tests were performed at this location. Similarly, when it publishes the results of the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests on its website in early 2002 (see Early 2002), this data is again left out. However, this data is given to the State of New York on November 13 (see November 13, 2001). Cate Jenkins, a senior chemist in the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Identification Division, will later suggest that the omission was intentional in order to obscure the fact that contamination was occurring considerably north of Ground Zero. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file] The City of New York will not return to these locations to conduct additional monitoring so there is no additional data on contamination in these locations. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announces that the EPA is monitoring levels of airborne contaminants in and around the area of Manhattan. She says that samples so far are “reassuring about potential exposure of rescue crews and the public to environmental contaminants.” The tests “found either no asbestos or very low levels of asbestos.” In Brooklyn, which is directly in the WTC smoke plume’s path (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), she says that “levels of lead, asbestos and volatile organic compounds in air samples… were not detectable or not of concern.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/13/2001] However, her statements contradict results from transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests that were conducted the previous day (see (September 12, 2001)).

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

The New York City Department of Health (DOH) issues recommendations for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residences. [New York City Department of Health, 9/17/2001]
Recommendations -
bullet The NYC DOH advises residents not return to apartments or workplaces south of Warren Street, west of Broadway, and north of Exchange Street, until the buildings have been approved to resume tenancy by building management.
bullet The DOH recommends that people wear dust masks upon re-entering their indoor areas. After indoor spaces have been cleaned as per instructions, it should not be necessary to wear dust masks.
bullet The advisory recommends that residents and people working downtown clean homes and offices using “a wet rag or wet mop.”
bullet Additional suggestions include shampooing and vacuuming carpets and upholstery with a HEPA vacuum or a normal vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. The recommendation is made despite two studies completed for the EPA in 1993 demonstrating that HEPA vacuums do not effectively remove asbestos from carpets and upholstery (see 1993) and that vacuuming actually increases asbestos levels in the air during use (see 1993).
bullet The advisory recommends that residents filter the air in their homes with HEPA air purifiers.
bullet NYC DOH instructs residents to “wash heavily soiled or dusty clothing or linens twice” and remove “lint from washing machines and filters in the dryers with each laundry load.”
bullet The recommendations say that if the “apartment is very dusty,” curtains should be washed or HEPA vacuumed. “If curtains need to be taken down, take them down slowly to keep dust from circulating in the air,” it adds.
bullet Residents are advised to bathe pets “with running water from a hose or faucet.” The advisory adds that “their paws should be wiped to avoid tracking dust inside the home.”
bullet The advisory also states to “[k]eep outdoor dust from entering the home” by keeping the “windows closed” and setting the “conditioner to re-circulate air (closed vents).”
bullet The advisory repeats earlier assertions that air monitoring indicates levels of airborne asbestos fibers detected in outside air does not pose a significant threat to human health. “Based on the asbestos test results received thus far, there are no significant health risks to occupants in the affected area or to the general public,” the agency claims. The DOH’s recommendations are criticized by industrial hygienists and other experts. The advisory is criticized for failing to mention that the “dust” inside these homes could possibly contain asbestos and other toxic substances and for neglecting to inform people that stringent national statutes regulate asbestos removal, requiring professional abatement of materials or dust that contain asbestos or other hazardous substances. US statutory code does not permit unlicensed individuals or contractors, much less residents, to perform asbestos removal. [New York City Department of Health, 9/16/2001 pdf file; New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 pdf file; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] In spite of these problems, the EPA website will link to the notice. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] and refer people to it who email the agency with questions about the safety of indoor air (see After November 1, 2001) (see After November 10, 2001). Some people, however, never even learn of this advisory and—after hearing repeated assurances from officials about safe environmental conditions—clean their indoor spaces as they otherwise would under normal conditions. [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file] Residents who do hire professional cleaners will find that their homes are still not safe. In November, American Medical News reports numerous doctors in NYC are seeing patients with respiratory conditions. “Their apartments were covered in dust, and have since been professionally cleaned” Ira Finegold, MD, chief of allergy at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, will say. “But they return, and after 20 minutes, they’re developing a raspy cough.” [American Medical News, 11/26/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, Ira Finegold

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The State of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation monitors record dioxin levels more than five times higher than normal in water discharged into the Hudson River from a sewer pipe at Rector St. Additionally, the monitors find PCBs and dioxin levels in the river’s sediment that are several times higher than figures recorded in an earlier 1993 study. The EPA does not provide the public with this information. Rather the data is found in internal EPA documents later obtained by the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project through the Freedom of Information Act in October (see October 19, 2001). [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York Environmental Law and Justice Project

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

ATC Associates of New York analyzes bulk dust samples taken from Vesey and Liberty Streets near the WTC site by Monona Rossol, an industrial hygienist with the Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety organization, and Attorney Joel R Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. The first four samples tested are found to contain 10-15 percent fiberglass, an extremely high concentration. A quarter of the samples have an asbestos level of 2.1 percent. [Environmental & Toxicology International, 9/19/2001; NY Environmental Law and Justice Project, 9/22/2001; Village Voice, 9/26/2001; Newsday, 10/12/2001] Shortly after these results are made public, the New York State Department of Health warns local labs that they will lose their licenses if they process any more “independent sampling.” [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Joel R Kupferman, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, ATC Associates, Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety organization (ACTS), US Department of Health and Human Services

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Monona Rossol, an industrial hygienist with Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety, writes a press release criticizing the New York City Department of Health (DOH)‘s WTC disaster cleanup guidelines (see September 17, 2001). The press release, co-signed by the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, points out that the DOH’s guidelines could “cause people to take needless risks.” Rossol takes issue with a September 20 New York Times article which suggested that residents could adequately clean up their apartments with a $3 mask and a broom, noting that “[t]aking actions like these can damage health and may even shorten lives in the future.” She insists “methods chosen to clean homes and offices must depend on analysis of the dust and the amounts present.” [NY Environmental Law and Justice Project, 9/22/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, Monona Rossol

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The American Lung Association announces plans to distribute more than 10,000 cleanup kits to assist people returning to their homes. Each “Operation Return Home” kit will include recommendations (see September 17, 2001) from the city’s department of health on how to properly clean their residences as well as a dust mask and a pair of latex gloves for cleaning. [Associated Press, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: American Lung Association

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA publishes a summary of results from the air-monitoring program it implemented shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The summary covers the period between September 11 and September 30.
bullet “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—a stringent standard based upon assumptions of long term exposure. OSHA has analyzed 67 air samples from the same area, and all were below the OSHA workplace standard for asbestos.”
bullet “All fifty-four air samples from EPA’s four monitors in New Jersey found no [asbestos] levels above EPA’s standard. Another 162 samples were taken from EPA’s monitors at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, where debris from the World Trade Center is being taken; only two exceeded EPA’s standard.”
bullet “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. Although early samples from water runoff into the Hudson and East Rivers showed some elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, asbestos and metals, recent results find non-detectable levels of asbestos, and PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals below the level of concern.”
bullet EPA and OSHA samples from Ground Zero and surrounding areas did not contain levels of lead, iron oxide, zinc oxide, copper or beryllium exceeding OSHA limits.
bullet The EPA “has measured dioxin levels in and around the World Trade Center site that were at or above EPA’s level for taking action.” However, the risk from dioxin is based on long term exposure, EPA claims, adding that the agency and OSHA “expect levels to diminish as soon as the remaining fires on the site are extinguished.” The exact figures of the dioxin levels, however, are startling. More than a year later, the EPA will publish a report which includes the raw dioxin data for this period indicating that dioxins levels on some days were almost six times the highest dioxin level ever recorded in the US (see December 27, 2002).
bullet “Of the 36 samples of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) taken around Ground Zero to assist response workers in determining the appropriate level of respiratory protection, several samples have been above the OSHA standard for workers. None presented an immediate risk to workers, and the levels are expected to decline when the fires are out.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Hundreds of residents and workers in Lower Manhattan attend a public meeting at Pace University where a panel of experts discusses the potential health risks associated with post-WTC collapse air contamination. Though they provide reassurances on the issue of asbestos levels, they highlight the uncertainty over the potential impact of other contaminants. “We don’t know all the facts,” Stephen Levin MD, a panelist, notes. “We do know that the further you are from the site, the less risk you have. No one at this point can give you absolute reassurance that there is no risk.” The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project is present at the meeting and distributes an informational flier citing evidence from an independent analysis of dust samples finding that fiberglass composes 15% by weight of the bulk sample (see September 19, 2001). The flyer also warns of the effects of WTC fires spewing highly toxic combustion products, including dioxins, PCBs, furans and other cancer-causing substances. [Newsday, 10/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Stephen Levin MD, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project obtains internal EPA documents containing data that the agency did not include in the monitoring results it posted on its website on October 3 (see October 3, 2001). The documents, which include hundreds of pages of daily monitoring reports, reveal that “[d]ioxins, PCBs, benzene, lead and chromium are among the toxic substances detected in the air and soil around the WTC site by Environmental Protection Agency [monitoring] equipment—sometimes at levels far exceeding federal levels.” For example, one test indicated water being discharged into the Hudson River contained chromium, copper, lead and zinc at levels “elevated to several orders of magnitude above ambient water-quality criteria for most metals.” Also included is disturbing data about the air quality. “On numerous days, sulfur dioxide readings in the air at a half-dozen sites in Lower Manhattan have been far higher than the EPA’s ambient air quality standards,” one document reveals. [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001; Associated Press, 10/27/2001; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The City of New York posts test results for asbestos in ambient outdoor air using the polarized light microscopy (PLM) test method on the NYC Department of Environmental Protection website. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file] New York City DEP test results based on the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) testing method are not posted until early 2002 (see Early 2002).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) publishes a notice for residents of Lower Manhattan reassuring them that the DEP, in collaboration with other government agencies, is doing everything it can to protect public health. The agencies are taking samples of the air, dust, water, river sediments and drinking water and analyzing them for the presence of pollutants, the statement says, and comparing them to a variety of government “benchmarks, standards and guidelines.” The notice claims that current monitoring indicates that containment levels do not represent a significant threat to public health. [NYC Department of Environmental Protection, 10/29/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Several government experts testify at a New York City Council meeting on environmental conditions following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] Kathleen Callahan, deputy regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), insists that New Yorkers living and working near the World Trade Center site are not in danger. “The vast majority of our tests find levels of these contaminants pose no significant long term health risks to residents, business employees and visitors beyond Ground Zero,” she says, repeating what earlier EPA statements have asserted. Downplaying the danger of those areas where higher asbestos levels have been found, she states—falsely (see April 18, 1989) (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004) —that “EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards are set many times below the level at which you would expect health impacts.” She advises New Yorkers who live or work in the affected areas to “follow the recommendations of the New York City Departments of Health and Environmental Protection on how to clean up properly (see September 17, 2001).” [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/1/2001] Another expert, Dr. Jessica Leighton, assistant city health commissioner for environmental risk assessment, similarly states that people living and working in Lower Manhattan have little to worry about. She says in response to a question whether or not “people are safe at the present level” of contamination: “As far as the science has shown us right now, that is absolutely correct.” Like Callahan, she claims that EPA standards are overly protective. “The standards or tolerance levels that are being used are very conservative,” she claims. “For example, for asbestos, we are using the standard that is used for indoor air quality for reentry into a school after asbestos removal, which is the most stringent standard, as the tolerance level or standard for outdoor air quality in the residential areas. This is also true for other substances, such as dioxins, identified at the perimeter of the site…. Moreover, these standards have been designed to include many safety factors so that acceptable levels of exposure are far below the levels at which health effects are expected to occur.” [New York City Department of Health, 11/1/2001] Joel Kupferman, executive director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, questions the accuracy of Leighton’s and Callahan’s statements and accuses them of withholding some test results. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] Kathryn Freed, a New York City Council Member who represents Lower Manhattan, said she was not convinced by agency assurances, noting that firemen are already showing symptoms of emphysema, a terminal disease for which there is no cure. “Just because it doesn’t reach a certain level is really irrelevant when people are sick,” says Marc Ameruso, a member of the area’s community board. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Kathryn Freed, Joel R Kupferman, Kathleen Callahan, Jessica Leighton, PhD.

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA uses a form letter to respond to inquiries from people who live and work in Manhattan asking how they should clean their interior spaces. The letter instructs them to follow the procedures outlined in the New York Department of Health’s September 17 advisory (see September 17, 2001). “The EPA does not have jurisdiction or oversight of indoor air quality or indoor cleanups,” the letter explains. “New York City (NYC) has the primary authority and responsibility for reoccupancy of buildings and health issues. Since you work very close to the WTC it is important that the recommendations of the New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) on how to clean up be followed…. The NYCDOH fact sheet on the internet (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/alerts/wtc3.shtml) contains recommendations for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residents re-entering their homes. Should the need arise to investigate the requirements for remediation of your residence, the NYCDEP has compiled a list of asbestos investigators, remediation contractors and air monitoring firms.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

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

The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project (NYELJP) receives documents from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the city’s Department of Health (DOH) that had been requested through the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The request was initially denied on grounds that the documents were related to an “on-going criminal investigation.” NYELJP receives them only after an appeal and repeated demands. The documents reveal that during spot testing the DEC’s monitors became clogged with dust and were not subsequently replaced or re-set as they should have been. The documents also contain NYC DOH test results showing that some of the air monitors located in City Hall offices and other spaces in downtown Manhattan had at times been “overloaded” with dust. Instead of recalibrating the equipment and re-testing, the department simply ceased testing. Rather than inform the public about the overload dust finding, the agency listed the results as “N.A.” on its website. [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

Kathleen Callahan, deputy regional director of the US Environmental Protection Agency, testifies before the joint New York State Assembly Committees on Environmental Conservation, Health, and Labor. She reiterates past EPA assertions that WTC contaminants pose no long term risks to local residents. “We’ve tested for the presence of pollutants such as asbestos, fine particulate matter, lead, volatile organic compounds, dioxin, benzene, metals, PCBs and other chemicals and substances that could pose a threat to the public and workers at the site,” she says. “Fortunately, the vast majority of our tests find levels of these contaminants that pose no significant long term health risks to residents, business employees and visitors beyond Ground Zero. And despite recent press accounts which suggest otherwise, these findings have not changed. In fact, environmental conditions off the site have improved in recent weeks.” Callahan also says that people concerned about contamination in their homes “should follow the recommendations of the New York City Departments of Health and Environmental Protection on how to clean up properly” (see September 17, 2001). [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Kathleen Callahan

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

The City of New York posts the results of its transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests on air asbestos levels on the New York City Department of Environmental Protection website. The data does not match the results that had been given to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation back in November (see November 13, 2001). Test results indicating excessive asbestos levels have been either deleted or changed to “not detected.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]

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

Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project collects dust samples at 150 Franklin Street at the request of one of the building’s tenants. He sends three samples to a lab which tests the dust for asbestos using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The lab finds asbestos levels of 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 percent. In September (see Shortly after September 17, 2001), the tenants had cleaned the building according to instructions provided by the city’s health department (see September 17, 2001). The building’s tenants—among them a family-run child care center—had relied on assurances from EPA and city officials that the downtown air was safe and consequently did not have the building professionally tested. After Kupferman notifies the city about these alarming results, the city tests the building using polarized light microscopy (PLM) on April 18 and does not find elevated asbestos levels. The city’s samples are retested by the EPA using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and found to have an asbestos level ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent. “We recommended that [the building] be professionally cleaned,” EPA spokesperson Mary Mears later says. [New York Daily News, 5/2/2002; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file; Salon, 8/15/2003]

Entity Tags: Joel R Kupferman, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) releases its “Report on Residential Air and Dust Sampling in Lower Manhattan,” which explains the agency found “low” levels of asbestos in 17.5 percent of the residential units sampled, 19.2 percent of the common area samples and 33 percent of the outdoor areas samples. But the study says there were extremely high levels of fibrous glass, which ranged from 2 to 15 percent in almost half the residential areas sampled and 64 percent of the outdoor samples. The ATSDR recommends “that people continue to conduct frequent cleaning with HEPA vacuums and damp cloths/mops to reduce the potential for exposure in accordance with NYC Department of Health (NYC DEP) guidance (see September 17, 2001).” But the NYC DEP’s instructions have been highly criticized (see September 17, 2001) (see September 22, 2001) and its recommendation to use a HEPA vacuum to remove asbestos contradicts previous EPA commissioned studies (see 1993) (see 1993). [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 5/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA Office of Research and Development releases a comprehensive study on pollution in and around Ground Zero titled, “Exposure and Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster.” The study concludes that the majority of residents and employees who returned to homes and offices after September 17 were “unlikely to suffer short-term or adverse health effects” from contaminants in the air. However the study warns that the thousands of people who were caught in the huge billowing dust clouds immediately after the towers collapsed, or who inhaled the air near the WTC site a few days after the attack, were “at risk for immediate acute [and possibly chronic] respiratory and other types of symptoms.” On page 77 of the report, the authors reveal that recorded dioxin levels from September through November were extremely high. For example, between October 12 and 29, a monitoring station on Park Row near City Hall Park recorded dioxin levels that averaged 5.6 parts per trillion/per cubic meter of air. This level is almost six times greater than the highest dioxin level ever recorded in the US, the report notes. The heaviest concentrations of dioxins were found at Ground Zero where concentrations “ranging from about 10 to 170” parts per trillion were recorded during the period between September 23 through November 21. Again the report observes that this figure is “between 100 and 1,500 times higher than typically found in urban air.” David Carpenter, MD, a researcher at State University of New York, tells the New York Daily News, “Those air levels are outrageous. There’s a very significant health danger here.” [New York Daily News, 12/31/2002]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The Stone Street apartment of Bob and Diane Van Dyke is cleaned as part of the EPA’s volunteer residential cleaning program (see September 17, 2001). “Seven workers spent four hours on the 2,200 square foot space,” Salon magazine will report. “None of them wore the waist-level air monitors [EPA spokesperson Mary] Mears insisted all crews would have as a safety precaution. No one wore facemasks, respirators, or even plastic gloves, even though the site supervisor had determined that all of the Van Dykes’ upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding were contaminated and should be thrown out. Hot water was used to remove dust from ventilation grates; Murphy’s Oil was spread on the floors. The carpets, which remained, were not vacuumed using the wet methods prescribed on the EPA’s Web site. Neither were the drapes. HEPA vacuums were used, but when a hose abruptly popped off the machine and dust spewed onto the freshly vacuumed floor, the hose was simply reattached and the floor was not re-vacuumed. The cleaning process appeared no different from a standard housecleaning.” [Salon, 8/15/2003]

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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