Bad Decisions...

...resulting from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) premature, unsupported announcement, shortly after 9/11/01, that "air is safe to breathe, water safe to drink" in Lower Manhattan -- and reasons to reallocate some of those billions committed by the federal government to remediate Lower Manhattan


Compiled By Members of 9/11 Environmental Action


1.  Decision by first responders -- who learned as early as the first or second day that EPA thought there was no problem -- to be less concerned about getting/wearing adequate protective gear.


2.   Decision to not evacuate all the people living in harm's way until it was certain that they were not in danger.


3.  Decision to reopen the Stock Exchange before office buildings, retail stores, subways etc. had been proven to be clear of contaminants, endangering the health of thousands of workers.


4.  Decision by EPA, and other agencies at all levels, not to do as much testing of air and dust as they should have.


5.  Decision by EPA right after 9/11 to refuse offers of sampling equipment and personnel from EPA Region 8 and Desert Research Institute (Reno).


6.  Decision to permit reoccupation of residences and businesses before there was evidence that it was safe to do so.


7.  Decision by Gov. Pataki to not include, in his request for federal disaster funds, a specific request for funds for a complete toxic cleanup


8.  Decision by NYC Board of Ed that it was safe for Stuyvesant students to go back to school on Oct 9.  It was later found that asbestos and lead levels were high even after subsequent cleanings.  Cases of nosebleeds, coughing and many more symptoms were never collected in a scientific study, and there was insufficient nursing staff to screen students complaining of illness.


9.  Decision by EPA not to immediately start cleaning up indoor spaces, delegating that responsibility to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).


10  Decision by the City DEP delegating indoor cleanup to landlords, with no oversight or follow-up to ensure that landlords actually did the cleanup — because the dust was supposedly not toxic.


11  Decision by the New York City Department of Health (DOH) to urge homeowners and office workers to clean up the dust themselves, without protection and using crude methods — because the dust was supposedly not toxic.


12. Decision not to have any kind of "smog" alert or noxious dust protocol in place in the City, even after the attack spread toxic fumes and contaminants for miles, for several months.

13. Decisions by EPA to withhold data on air quality from scientists, residents and even public officials; to delay putting information on their web site about air quality tests; to post only a tiny fraction of available information; to not aggregate information from all relevant agencies in one place (instead, their site had links to other web sites).


14. Decision by EPA not to ensure that the fires at the disaster site — the  source of massive, continuing toxic emissions — were extinguished quickly; instead, relegating it to the New York City Fire Department, whose depleted force was consumed with rescue and recovery.


15. Decisions by residents and offices not to throw out carpets, drapes and other soft furnishings, although the EPA knew that those items cannot be completely cleaned of asbestos, even by the most stringent methods.


16. Decision by EPA, when it finally did start a remediation program a year later, to design it as a voluntary, arbitrarily limited program which did not clean entire HVAC systems, offices or most residences near Ground Zero, and none in Brooklyn or above Canal St. (they couldn't contradict their own earlier reassuring statements).  Among many seriously flawed program protocols:  clearance testing after cleaning was only for asbestos and not for dioxins, metals and fiberglass; the need to clean HVAC systems was determined by using visual inspection rather than analytical sampling; residents could choose 'passive' air testing -- either by itself or after cleaning -- a method that does not provide assurances that homes are free of asbestos or other contaminants; contracted cleaning crews removing asbestos contaminated hallway carpeting were not given respirators or other protective clothing, and were not even required to wear dust masks.


17. Decision by EPA not to do much testing for PAHs (a fact that EPA’s peer review panel noted in their July, 2003 sessions).


18. Decision by Gov. Pataki to suspend, for the World Trade Center recovery and site cleanup, State environmental regulations governing the transport and disposal of toxic waste.  The governor signed this executive order on October 9, 2001, the very day that Stuyvesant High students were made to return to classes, next to Hudson River Pier 25.  The governor’s order led to the following:


19. Decision by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to allow an uncovered barge-loading operation for WTC toxic waste at Pier 25, adjacent to Stuyvesant High School and  within a block of residences and other schools; and to the decision to allow the transport of toxic waste through city neighborhoods in leaky, tarp-covered trucks rather than totally sealed vehicles.  Yes, the site cleanup was completed months ahead of schedule, but at the expense of people’s health!


20. Decision by whatever government agency should have been in charge that there was no urgent need to get protective respirators to everyone working anywhere near the toxic waste and fires.  It was publicized much later that the US Army had plenty of respirators in storage that could have been deployed in NYC.


21. Decision by FEMA to not pay for businesses to remediate their premises (because they said insurance companies would pay for it).

22. Decision by insurance companies not to cover claims to remediate dust contamination because “there was no problem.”


23. Decision by the insurance companies to encourage people to move back in quickly so that their living-out expenses were limited .


24. Decisions by non-residents to take government bribes to move into Downtown (without full knowledge of the possible contamination in the buildings into which they were moving).


25. Decisions by relatively few residents to sign up for the voluntary clean-up, since they were initially, and continually, reassured by EPA statements.


26. Decisions by volunteers from around the world (e.g., Southern Baptist crews who cleaned apartments at Thanksgiving, 2001, some of whom were teenagers), who unknowingly assumed risks that they might not have elected to expose themselves to had they been honestly informed.


27. Decision by Red Cross to discourage volunteers and participants at the October 11, 2001 memorial from wearing masks although they were plentiful and available.


28. Decision by those exposed to WTC air and dust not to consider their symptoms (shortness of breath, etc.) to be an illness caused by exposure to toxics, and therefore not to seek treatment.  Doctors have said the sooner patients receive treatment, the better.


29. Decision not to begin a health registry of all those exposed to contaminated air or dust until years after the exposure, ensuring that the registry, when begun, would omit data about people who had already died or suffered in the interim, and increasing the  likelihood of faulty data collection and inaccurate conclusions about the health impacts of the WTC collapses and fires.


30. Decision by Red Cross to refuse to notify volunteers that they had been exposed and that they are eligible for the Registry and Health Care for injuries from the attack.


31. Decision by doctors not to pay special attention to their patients who lived, worked or were otherwise exposed to WTC air and dust, because they believed it to be safe (note how even Mt. Sinai admits they fell for this).


32. Decision to allow ongoing digging and construction at the WTC site, as well as at the site of #7 WTC, without testing the site or, if any tests were done, without publicly releasing the results.