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Profile: Walter Mugdan

Positions that Walter Mugdan has held:


(November 19, 2001)

“EPA has two sets of regulations that deal with asbestos… neither set of regulations is directly applicable to the conditions in the wake of the WTC disaster… The first set of asbestos-related regulations are part of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs)… pursuant to… the Clean Air Act… The second set of regulations are those promulgated by EPA pursuant to the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)… The AHERA regulations also include a ‘clearance’ standard for inside air in school buildings to be used after asbestos abatement work has been completed, in order to ensure that the space is safe for re-entry by children, teachers and other employees…. EPA began taking ambient air samples… Once again, the key question… to what reference standard the test results would be compared in order to determine whether the air was ‘safe.’… EPA has not promulgated an outdoor ambient air quality standard for asbestos; nor has any other regulatory agency done so, for that matter. The only standard for asbestos in air that EPA has promulgated is found in the AHERA regulations referenced above. These rule s include what is commonly called a clearance test… The specified AHERA clearance test procedure includes, inter alia, a step in which air monitored in the affected space is compared with the specified ‘background’ level of 70 structures per square millimeter (70 s/mm 2).” [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file]

Associated Events

Walter Mugdan was a participant or observer in the following events:

According to documents that the City of New York later provides to New York State, between eighteen and fifty-two percent of New York City’s transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests (see November 20, 1990) performed during this period indicate asbestos levels of over 70 structures/sq. millimeter (s/mm2). Many of these high test results are based on air samples taken several blocks from Ground Zero. (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file) This figure is similar to the one that Walter E. Mugdan, the Regional Counsel for EPA Region 2, will provide in a speech to the New York Bar Association in January 2002. “Around 35 percent of the samples of bulk dust taken in Lower Manhattan in the first few days after the collapse exceeded the 1 percent level,” he will say.

Walter Mugdan, the EPA’s regional counsel, disputes allegations (see November 15, 2001) that EPA employee Cate Jenkins recently made against the agency in a memo. Jenkins claimed that EPA officials “effectively waived” the EPA’s “strict national regulations for removal and disposal of asbestos contaminated dust.” Mugdan argues that Jenkins “assumes that they [the regulations] apply to the cleaning up of dust in residential or office buildings in Lower Manhattan.” According to him, “When they were written, they were never intended to apply to something like a terrorist act. These regulations apply to owners and operators of a facility who are carrying out a demolition or renovation. They were never contemplated to apply to someone cleaning an apartment.” (Gonzalez 11/20/2001 pdf file; Congressional Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler 1/7/2002) In response to Mugdan’s claim, Jenkins says, “This is not an academic or scientific argument. Our regulations are very specific. They don’t allow you to do this. We’ve had a breakdown where the federal EPA and the city are scrambling to get everything back to normal, and they’re ignoring the law.” (Gonzalez 11/20/2001 pdf file) Mugdan’s assertions are contradicted by the fact that the EPA has recently removed asbestos from private homes in Libby, Montana and has tested for, and removed, other types of hazardous materials in other regions of the US (see After November 1, 2001). (Congressional Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler 1/7/2002) Furthermore, in May 2000 (see May 2000), the EPA affirmed that in the event of a terrorist attack, the EPA would respond under the authority of the NCP (see 1972) —which binds the EPA to the very rules Mugdan’s claims would not apply.

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