[Senate Hearing 110-1097]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 110-1097
EPA'S RESPONSE TO 9/11 AND LESSONS LEARNED FOR FUTURE EMERGENCY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SUPERFUND AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
JUNE 20, 2007
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COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
BARBARA BOXER, California, Chairman
MAX BAUCUS, Montana JAMES M. INHOFE, Oklahoma
JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN, Connecticut JOHN W. WARNER, Virginia
THOMAS R. CARPER, Delaware GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, Ohio
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, New York JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, New Jersey DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland LARRY E. CRAIG, Idaho
BERNARD SANDERS, Vermont LAMAR ALEXANDER, Tennessee
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, Missouri
SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, Rhode Island
Bettina Poirier, Majority Staff Director and Chief Counsel
Andrew Wheeler, Minority Staff Director
Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, New York, Chairman
MAX BAUCUS, Montana LARRY CRAIG, Idaho, Ohio
FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, New Jersey DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, Missouri
BARBARA BOXER, California, (ex JAMES M. INHOFE, Oklahoma, (ex
C O N T E N T S
JUNE 20, 2007
Clinton, Hon. Hillary Rodham, U.S. Senator from the State of New
Craig, Hon. Larry, U.S. Senator from the State of Wyoming........ 4
Boxer, Hon. Barbara, U.S. Senator from the State of California... 5
Lautenberg, Hon. Frank R., U.S. Senator from the State of New
Inhofe, Hon. James M., U.S. Senator from the State of Oklahoma... 9
Connaughton, James L., Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality 43
Prepared statement........................................... 45
Bodine, Susan Parker, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid
Waste and Emergency Response, U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency Accompanied by: George Gray, Assistant Administrator,
Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency.............................................. 46
Prepared statement........................................... 47
Responses to additional questions:
Senator Inhofe........................................... 51
Senator Clinton.......................................... 54
Rodenbeck, Sven, SC.D., P.E., BCEE, Captain, U.S. Public Health
Service, Deputy Branch Chief, Agency for Toxic Substances and
Disease Registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 76
Prepared statement........................................... 77
Responses to additional questions from Senator Inhofe........ 79
Stephenson, John B., Director, Natural Resources and Environment,
U.S. Government Accountability Office.......................... 81
Prepared statement........................................... 83
Lavin, Nina, Resident............................................ 142
Prepared statement........................................... 144
Newman, David M., M.A., M.S., New York Committee for Occupational
Safety and Health.............................................. 148
Prepared statement........................................... 150
Court Document, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of
New York....................................................... 12-40
Letter to Hon. Deborah Glick, Assembly District #66 from
Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD., Department of Health and
Mental Hygiene................................................. 41
EPA National Approach to Response, Crisis Communications Plan for
Incidents of National Significance, July 24, 2007.............. 63-75
ATSDR Fact Sheet................................................. 99
NSF PR 03-09-January 20, 2003, Scientist Find Geochemical
Fingerprint of World Trade Center Collapse Recorded in New York
Harbor Sediments............................................... 104
EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union.................... 106
USGS, Determination of a Diagnostic Signature for World Trade
Center Dust Using Scanning Electron Microscopy Point Counting
Techniques, by Gregory P. Meeker, Amy M. Bern, Heather A.
Lowers, and Isabelle K. Brownfield............................111-128
Article, Journal of Asthma, June 2007...........................132-140
Presidential Decision Directive-62............................... 163
EPA'S RESPONSE TO 9/11 AND LESSONS LEARNED FOR FUTURE EMERGENCY
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2007
Committee on Environment and Public Works,
Subcommittee on Superfund and
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m. in
room 406, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Hillary Rodham
Clinton (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Senators Clinton, Craig, Boxer, Inhofe, and
STATEMENT OF HON. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SENATOR FROM THE
STATE OF NEW YORK
Senator Clinton. The hearing will come to order.
I want to welcome all of you. We are expecting votes, and
there was a lot of scrambling around, trying to decide whether
we would start the hearing and then go vote or vote and then
start the hearing. So some of my colleagues who will join me
later will try to figure out the time has been changed, so
we're not sure exactly when the vote will occur. But we want to
go ahead and get started.
I thank you all for being here. I know there are a number
of New Yorkers in the audience. I welcome all of you: Kimberly
Flynn, Joseph Jones, Jenna Orkin, Marvin Bethea, Barbara Einzig
and everyone else.
This is the first hearing of the Subcommittee on Superfund
and Environmental Health. It is entitled EPA's Response to 9/11
and Lessons Learned for Future Emergency Preparedness.
Also in the audience is my friend and colleague and someone
who has been a real leader on these issues, Congressman Jerry
This follows a hearing that I chaired in the HELP Committee
earlier this year in March to address the urgent health needs
of the thousands of first responders, workers, volunteers and
residents who have suffered illnesses because of the toxins to
which they were exposed following the attacks of 9/11. It is a
companion hearing to the one that Congressman Nadler will hold
on the House side next week.
We will first hear testimony from a Federal panel that
includes EPA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality,
the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the
Government Accountability Office. We will then hear from a
panel that includes a New York City resident and a scientific
expert, both heavily involved in 9/11 contamination issues.
I am delighted to be joined by the Ranking Member on this
committee, Senator Larry Craig. Thank you very much, Senator
Craig, for coming. My Chairman of the full committee, Barbara
Boxer, as well as my friend and colleague, Senator Lautenberg.
I really appreciate each of their interest in this issue. Of
course, Senator Lautenberg and I share many constituents who
have been suffering and even dying because of their exposures
to the toxins at and around Ground Zero.
I called this hearing because it is time for answers.
Nearly 6 years after 9/11, we still don't have the whole truth
about the toxic cloud of poison that filled the air after the
towers fell. We don't have an explanation for the
misrepresentations that put countless people at risk of
exposure to chemicals that we know are causing illness and
When we turned to our Government in Washington for guidance
in the hours, days and weeks after that tragedy, one of the
questions people asked was obvious and important: is the air
safe. What did EPA tell us? On September 18, 2001, Governor
Whitman said, ``I'm glad to reassure the people of New York and
Washington, DC., that their air is safe to breathe and their
water is safe to drink.''
Now, based on EPA's statements, parents sent their children
to school in the area, residents returned to their apartments.
But as the EPA Inspector General informed us in 2003, the EPA's
statements were ``not supported by the data available at the
Now, I recognize that EPA and everyone else involved were
operating under unprecedented and extremely difficult
circumstances. But I simply cannot accept what appears to have
been a deliberate effort to provide unwarranted reassurances at
the direction of the White House to New Yorkers about whether
their air was safe to breathe. I well remember my first visit
to Ground Zero, the day after 9/11. You could feel it on your
skin, the air was acrid and thick, you could taste it, you
certainly could smell it.
Back in Washington, I went to work, pushing then-
Administrator Whitman to address environmental hazards from the
9/11 fallout and to hold hearings in New York City on the issue
in February 2002. I pushed for EPA to address the indoor
contamination issue and fought for the Administration to
address the shortcomings identified in the first cleanup
program leading to a commitment to establish the EPA World
Trade Center Expert Technical Review Panel in 2003.
I have also worked to secure funding for programs to
provide medical screening and tracking for first responders. I
am very pleased that the Senate Labor HHS Education and Related
Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee has approved a bill
yesterday to provide an additional $55 million in Federal
funding to address the mounting health needs of those who were
exposed to environmental hazards. For the first time, we were
able to secure bill language requiring the Department of Health
and Human Services, through NIOSH, to extend the program to
residents, students and others impacted by the toxins. I want
to thank Senators Harkin and Spector for including this in the
The reason I have worked so hard on these issues is because
of heart-rending stories of people like Felicia Dunn-Jones, and
members of her family are here with us. In May, the New York
City medical examiner reversed an earlier decision and ruled
that the death of Felicia Dunn-Jones was connected to her
exposure on 9/11, the first such ruling in New York. We already
had had a ruling by the coroner in New Jersey connecting the
death of a NYPD detective to his exposure.
Felicia Dunn-Jones was a 42-year-old lawyer who worked near
the World Trade Center. In February 2002, she passed away from
sarcoidosis, often associated with environmental hazards. Her
husband, Joe, who lives in Staten Island with his two children,
is here today, as is Felicia's sister, Sharon Alvarez.
She was caught in the toxic cloud, and her story recognizes
how difficult the balance has been of scientific and medical
evidence. But it is shifting, showing that increased exposure
to 9/11 toxins actually can cause illness and death.
The first responders were the first to see the effects.
Within 2 months of the attacks, 300 firefighters were on
medical leave, suffering with lung ailments. Subsequent
research has shown this was just the first sign of persistent
health problems. More than 11,500 firefighters and 3,000
emergency medical technicians and paramedics took part in the
greatest rescue ever mounted. We know that thousands are now
suffering from adverse health effects. According to fire
department studies, exposed firefighters on average experienced
a decline in lung function equivalent to what would have been
produced by 12 years of aging.
More than 34,000 employees of the New York Police
Department participated in rescue, recovery and cleanup
operations at Ground Zero or Fresh Kills, where the debris from
the disaster was taken. More than 2,000 members of the police
department have filed medical claims. The rescue and recovery
efforts were assisted by heavy machine operators, laborers,
iron workers, building and construction tradespeople,
telecommunication workers and others from the public and
Researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center have documented
physical and mental health effects among this population, with
69 percent reporting new or worsened respiratory symptoms
experienced while at Ground Zero and 59 percent still
experiencing persistent health effects more than 2 years after
Almost 60,000 residents live in the vicinity of the World
Trade Center, south of Canal Street in Lower Manhattan. The
dust and debris settled in many of the apartments and buildings
in the vicinity of the attacks. An analysis of more than 2,000
residents in the area found 60 percent experienced the onset of
respiratory symptoms, a rate approximately three times higher
than that of people in the surrounding area in Manhattan.
In addition, students at Stuyvesant High School in Lower
Manhattan, who were evacuated because of their proximity to the
World Trade Center, resumed classes 1 month after the attacks.
They had rates of respiratory and other illnesses higher than
those at other New York City high schools.
Sadly, some of these illnesses were not preventable, as the
toxic dust cloud literally enveloped many people as they fled
from the scene. But many who were exposed could have been
protected. That is why it is important we examine what went
wrong. Americans deserve to know what we can do to better
protect them. We have a number of questions.
First, why did the Bush administration, EPA and CEQ
management choose to downplay and grossly misrepresent the
exposure health risks posed in the days and weeks after 9/11?
Second, the EPA's own Inspector General blasted the EPA's
program to clean up indoor contamination, but 4 years later,
the EPA is making the same mistakes again.
Third, have EPA and CEQ learned lessons from the disaster
and are better prepared to protect public health from
environmental hazards in the future? To me, it is clear from
the GAO testimony that some lessons are being ignored, and I
don't want us to repeat the mistakes. We could never repay
those who sacrificed for us, who answered the call of duty. We
cannot go back in time and pull the brave men and women off
that pile or order them to wear respiratory protection
equipment. We can't tell the residents, the first responders,
the workers and the volunteers that the air is too dangerous to
But we can clear the air here in Washington and clear the
way to help those affected and to hold accountable those who
did let New Yorkers and Americans down, to learn the lessons
that we should to be fully prepared for the unthinkable. That
is why I have called today's hearing.
Let me turn now to the Ranking Member on this subcommittee,
Senator Larry Craig.
STATEMENT OF HON. LARRY CRAIG, U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF
Senator Craig. Madam Chairman, the vote has just started. I
certainly will get us under the wire.
But again, along with the Chairman, I want to thank all the
witnesses today for joining us to examine the lessons learned
from 9/11 and EPA's preparedness for future emergencies.
Certainly, reviewing the past is critically important for any
of us if we are going to be prepared for the future. Most, if
not all of us, can tell the story of where we were and what we
were doing when we first learned of the tragic events of 9/11.
The aftermath of the Twin Towers collapse showed an inspiring
level of heroism and teamwork literally unprecedented, I think,
in our history.
These unimaginable circumstances also highlighted emergency
response successes and shortcomings. That is what we are
talking about here today. I think it is important to review the
lessons we have learned and I look forward to the testimony of
In reviewing the reports within the scope of this hearing,
it appears to me that criticisms largely hover around outdoor
air health advisories as well as indoor air health and clean
programs. The IG report released on August 21, 2003, regarded
EPA's response to the World Trade Center collapse states,
``Although many organizations were involved in addressing air
quality concerns resulting from the World Trade Center
collapse, subsequent events have demonstrated that ultimately
the public, Congress and others expected EPA to monitor and
resolve environmental issues, even when EPA may not have had
the overall responsibility to resolve these issues or the
necessary resources to address them.''
Later, the report states, ``EPA does not have clear
statutory authority to establish and enforce health-based
regulatory standards for indoor air.'' As you can see, Madam
Chairman, there is a serious disconnect, or it appears there is
a serious disconnect, between what the public and some public
officials have as expectations to EPA's ability and the actual
authority granted to the Agency. I believe this disconnect
should be addressed. I think it is appropriate and it is
Additionally, there are differing opinions regarding the
current status of the indoor air test and clean program, and
what actions can be taken that are prudent for a safety-health
standpoint, but that still maintain a level of fiscal
responsibility. In other words, what is reality, what can we
do, what is the statutory ability to do it, and what does it
Although it has been less than 6 short years since this
tragedy, I am interested to hear more about the programs EPA
instituted as a result of the experience, such as the creation
of the Office of Emergency Management and the National
Decontamination Team and the expansion of the Environmental
Response Team, among others.
One last thing, Madam Chair. It has been brought to my
attention that due to past litigation surrounding these issues
aimed at Chairman Connaughton, he may be unable to answer all
of the questions. So I ask that we at least be cognizant to any
legal situation that may exist. I am confident he will respond
With that, Madam Chairman, I would like to thank you for
holding the hearing. It is an important hearing. I will
conclude this statement by saying, let us always review where
we have been to know where we need to get, and the realities of
what happened and how we might change them that are within the
scope of the law or our responsibility, Madam Chairman, in
adjusting the law to bring it into compliance, allow agencies
to move in directions that we might otherwise have thought they
had the authority to move in.
Senator Clinton. Thank you very much, Senator Craig. I look
forward to working with you on those issues.
Senator Boxer, Chairwoman Boxer.
STATEMENT OF HON. BARBARA BOXER, U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF
Senator Boxer. Thank you so much, Senator Clinton, for
holding this important hearing, but also for your focus on this
very moral issue and your leadership.
Nearly 6 year after the attacks of 9/11, the events of that
horrific day are seared in our memories. We will never forget
the collapse of the Towers into a billowing cloud that
swallowed up thousands of people. Who can forget those brave
firefighters and police officers charging into the smoking
buildings and disappearing into the choking cloud?
We remember now the fine, gray dust that covered
everything. Then we learned that that fine, gray dust was
toxic. It contained lead, asbestos and other dangerous
materials. We are here today because we owe it to the families
of those who died, those who are still sick and their families
to ask questions that need to be answered about our
It is our responsibility, which you are making sure we
carry out, Madam Chair, to ensure that EPA and the rest of the
executive branch carry out the laws that we pass, including our
environmental laws. We now have a chance to take a look at how
I am here to support Senator Clinton's efforts to oversee
the Government response. She has my full confidence. She has
been a true leader on this issue. She has worked to make sure
that this committee stays on track and doesn't look away from
As in the case of many lesser disasters, we only learn
afterwards what the extent of the danger was to the people who
were there. There are continuing concerns about the health of
many people exposed to the toxins that I described.
I believe that the Government has a responsibility to level
with the public about everything they know about the risks. If
there are dangers, let's be honest about them. Government
should never downplay or cover up danger.
I am concerned about allegations that officials at EPA and
from the White House twisted the facts and misleadingly
reassured the public about the health risks after the 9/11
attack in New York. Senator Clinton reiterated just one
sentence from Administrator Whitman, which was reassuring and
which was wrong.
After such disasters and health emergencies, the Government
also must assure that we quickly and properly cleanup the
contamination. The Government did mobilize substantial
resources after 9/11, but we will hear testimony about some
shortcomings in the response, especially with respect to the
toxic dust that coated the indoors of many residences and
businesses among other issues.
Finally, the Government should assist those whose health is
hit hardest, especially the first responders and the most
severely exposed citizens, to ensure that their health is
monitored and protected. This is an ongoing concern after the
World Trade Center attacks, and other disasters, when first
responders and other citizens are highly exposed to toxic
chemicals and materials.
Senator Clinton took the lead in getting a provision
enacted in the Safe Ports Act last Congress that helps mobilize
health tracking after a disaster. I want to announce today that
she and I are working with Senator Baucus on a broader bill to
make sure that in any, any disaster, a Federal disaster, there
is follow-up and there is monitoring and there is help for
those exposed, those workers exposed. I hope the Administration
will work with us on this. We reach out to them today to do
Unfortunately, this Administration failed to level with
many people in the aftermath of the attack. In 2003, the EPA's
Inspector General found that the White House Council on
Environmental Quality reviewed and changed EPA's statements in
order to downplay the health risks associated with
contamination. In public statements, the Inspector General
said, ``The White House Council on Environmental Quality
influenced the information that EPA communicated to the public
through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to add
reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones.''
Twisting facts to encourage a false sense of security can
harm people and erode the public's trust in Government. This is
the Inspector General report. This isn't a political report.
Government should rely on science and act in the best interests
of its citizens, not spend the evidence.
So I am so pleased that we have the opportunity to shed
more light on these critical issues and right the wrongs that
have been done. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Senator Boxer follows:]
Senator Clinton. Thank you very much.
Senator Lautenberg, we will go and vote and tell them to
wait until you get there.
Senator Lautenberg. I feel like the last man standing here,
Senator Clinton. To collapse my minutes and wonder whether I am
going to miss a vote is really not something I want to do.
Senator Clinton. Well, why don't we recess now and we will
all go vote and come back and then you can give your opening
Senator Lautenberg. I would really prefer that. I
appreciate it and I thank the witnesses.
Senator Clinton. So we will be in recess.
Senator Clinton. The hearing will come to order.
We have been joined by Senator Inhofe. We will now go to
Senator Lautenberg for his opening statement and Senator
Inhofe, if you have an opening statement.
Senator Inhofe. I do, thank you.
Senator Clinton. Senator Lautenberg.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, U.S. SENATOR FROM THE
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman,
and thank you, those who are appearing at the witness table,
for your indulgence while we took care of our voting
On September 11, 2001, more than 3,000 people lost their
lives, including 700 New Jersey residents. What was not obvious
at the time, but apparent now, is the damage from the collapse
of the World Trade Center buildings that extended beyond that
immediate territory that fateful day. Now, 6 years later, the
health of thousands of first responders, search and rescue
workers, volunteers who rushed to Ground Zero, many, once
again, from my home State of New Jersey, continues to decline.
Residents and office workers from some distance away from
those buildings have also fallen ill. Their illnesses were
caused by toxic dust that they inhaled in the days and the
weeks after the attack. Many of those people are now suffering
from respiratory problems, reduced lung functions. Many of the
firefighters who were there can no longer conduct their duties,
as has happened with other workers as well. Many have died.
One of those who died from inhaling the toxic dust was
Joseph Zadroga, a decorated New York City detective from New
Jersey. He was only 34 years old. Those who worked, lived, or
volunteered near Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attack had
every right to expect their Government to provide honest,
accurate and complete information about the environmental
conditions and health consequences in New York City.
So it is disturbing to me that they were let down by the
Administration's people. After the attack, the EPA downplayed
the health risks posed by the toxic air and dust the Towers
released when they collapsed. In 2003, a report by the EPA
Inspector General found that EPA's statements misled the public
about the safety of the air. Misled means that they had
knowledge beforehand, and the White House rewrote EPA's press
releases to minimize the health risks.
The Administration should have focused on educating the
public and protecting them from the threats to their health.
They certainly would do it if it was a volcano or some other
thing that produced toxic materials as a consequence.
Since 9/11, the EPA has conducted testing and cleaning of
apartments and buildings, some apartments and buildings, near
the World Trade Center. But its approach has been criticized,
including by an expert panel convened by EPA as insufficient to
protect the public health, almost 6 years after 9/11. It is
outrageous that EPA still has not gotten the message clearly.
It is infuriating to think that people who were doing their
duty trying to save others, and those who were innocent
bystanders are now threatened with illnesses that are
debilitating and life-shortening.
So Madam Chairman, I thank you for holding this hearing and
I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses how this
program should be improved. I am hoping that they will give
their fullest response. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Senator Lautenberg follows:]
Statement of Hon. Frank R. Lautenberg, U.S. Senator from the
State of New Jersey
Madam Chairman, on September 11, 2001, more than 3,000 people lost
their lives, including 700 residents of New Jersey.
But as we know now, the damage from the collapse of the World Trade
Center buildings extended beyond that fateful day.
Nearly six years later, the health of thousands of first
responders, search and rescue workers and volunteers who rushed to
Ground Zero--many from New Jersey--continues to decline.
And some nearby residents and office workers have also begun to
Their illnesses were caused by the toxic dust they inhaled in the
days and weeks after the attack.
Some of those people are now suffering from respiratory problems
and reduced lung function. Others have died.
One of those who died from inhaling the toxic dust was Joseph
Zadroga, a decorated New York City detective from New Jersey. He was
Those who worked, lived or volunteered near Ground Zero in the
aftermath of the attack had every right to expect their government to
provide accurate and complete information about the environmental
conditions and health consequences in New York City.
So it's disturbing to me that the Administration let them down.
After the attack, the Bush EPA downplayed the health risks posed by
the toxic air and dust the towers released when they collapsed.
In 2003, a report by the EPA Inspector General found that EPA
statements misled the public about the safety of the air and the White
House rewrote EPA's press releases to minimize the health risks.
The Administration should have focused on educating the public and
protecting them from threats to their health.
Since 9/11, the EPA has conducted testing and cleaning on some
apartments and buildings near the World Trade Center.
But its approach has been criticized, including by an expert panel
convened by EPA, as insufficient to protect the public health, almost
six years after 9/11.
It's outrageous that EPA has still not gotten this right.
I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses about how this
program should be improved.
Thank you Madam Chairman.
Senator Clinton. Thank you very much, Senator Lautenberg.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES M. INHOFE, U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE
Senator Inhofe. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
The devastation of New York that was suffered on September
11th was just unprecedented and horrendous. As in all the
Presidentially declared disasters, EPA cooperated with its many
Federal departments to provide coordinated response. This
hearing is to examine EPA's response and future preparedness,
and I would say, lessons learned.
Following September 11th, EPA was highly involved
conducting air, water and dust monitoring in lower Manhattan
for environmental hazards. The EPA vacuumed street debris and
disposed of hazardous waste. The EPA also conducted a voluntary
cleanup program from 2002 to 2003 that served more than 4,000
residences in lower Manhattan.
Although the EPA does not ordinarily administer worker
protection regulations, it provided respirators, protective
gear for workers at the World Trade site. The EPA has received
some criticism for its role following September 11th. The EPA
Inspector General released a lengthy report in 2003, alleging
many problems with EPA responses. I will provide you two brief
First, the EPA IG alleged that EPA, OSHA and the Council on
Environmental Quality released misleading information to the
public on air monitoring and sampling in press releases.
However, in the same report, the IG conceded that EPA used many
methods to inform the public, including public meetings, fact
sheets, its web site, interviews with newspapers, radio, TV, as
well as through press releases. The IG concluded in the same
report in regard to the monitoring data, ``We found no evidence
that EPA attempted to conceal results from the public.''
Second, although the IG was critical of the EPA's response,
including its response to indoor environmental contamination,
the IG concluded, ``The EPA's action to evaluate, mitigate and
control risk to human health from exposure to indoor air
pollutants in the World Trade Center area were consistent with
applicable statutes and regulations.'' I think quite often you
get people who pick and choose statements out of reports that
give a negative, and I want to make sure that we have the full
information out here.
Ultimately, the EPA IG report was incomplete, because the
IG did not interview other officials in other Federal agencies
such as OSHA and the CEQ. Following the release of the 2003 EPA
IG report, my staff prepared a report, reviewing the IG's
findings and interviewed EPA IG personnel, former Acting
Administrator Mary Ann Orinco, and the CEQ Chairman, Jim
Connaughton, and OSHA Assistant Administrator John Henshaw. I
request that those reports be made a part of the record. During
that time, I was the Chairman of the committee, so we were very
actively involved in this.
I also want to make a comment that normally, I like to get
information from people closest to the problem. While the EPA
IG was critical of EPA's response, not all officials were
critical in their responses to 9/11. Dr. Thomas Frieden, the
New York City Commissioner of Public Health, testified at an
EPW Clean Air Subcommittee hearing held in New York City in
February 2002, ``One of the most vivid pictures to emerge is
one of unprecedented cooperation between local, State, Federal
health environmental and occupational agencies, the teamwork is
quite extraordinary.'' That was coming from the Commissioner
there in New York.
I hope this hearing does not focus on the conflicting
findings of a 4-year-old IG report. Instead, I hope this
hearing provides legitimate congressional oversight on
activities in which the EPA is currently engaged. In January
2007, the EPA opened public registration for a new lower
Manhattan testing and cleaning program. This program is
designed to test for elevated levels of four contaminants
associated with dust from the collapse of the World Trade
Center. FEMA has provided $7 million to EPA for this work. I
understand that members of that expert panel, the CEQ and EPA,
convened for this purpose and are dissatisfied that a more
exacting program could not have been developed.
However, I have an August 2006 letter from the same
Commissioner, the New York City Health Commissioner Frieden,
stating, ``The environmental investigation and testing
conducted in lower Manhattan indicates that potential health
impacts from any remaining World Trade Center dust are
extremely low or non-existing.'' I ask unanimous consent that
also be made a part of this record.
We have witnesses that I know will shed further light on
the many issues involving the World Trade Center and its
aftermath, and I look forward to this committee hearing. I have
made two unanimous consent requests for inclusions into the
[The prepared statement of Senator Inhofe follows:]
Statement of Hon. James M. Inhofe, U.S. Senator from the
State of Oklahoma
The devastation New York City suffered on September 11, 2001, was
unprecedented and horrendous. As in all Presidentially declared
disasters, EPA cooperates with many other federal departments to
provide a coordinated response. This hearing is to examine EPA's
response and future preparedness and to receive testimony on the Test
and Clean program EPA is conducting in Lower Manhattan.
Following September 11th, EPA was highly involved conducting air,
water, and dust monitoring in Lower Manhattan for environmental
hazards. EPA vacuumed street debris and disposed of hazardous wastes.
EPA also conducted a voluntary clean up program from 2002 to 2003 that
served more 4,100 residents in Lower Manhattan. Although EPA does not
ordinarily administer worker protection regulations, it provided
respirators and protective gear for workers at the World Trade Center
EPA has received criticism for its role following September 11th.
The EPA Inspector General released a lengthy report in 2003 alleging
many problems with EPA's response. I'll provide two brief examples.
First, the EPA IG report alleged that EPA, OSHA, and the Council on
Environmental Quality released misleading information to the public on
air monitoring and sampling in press releases. However, in the same
report the IG conceded that EPA used many methods to inform the public
including public meetings, fact sheets, its website, and interviews
with newspapers, radio, and television, as well as through press
releases. The IG concluded in the same report, ``In regard to the
monitoring data, we found no evidence that EPA attempted to conceal
data results from the public.'' Secondly, although the IG was critical
of EPA's response including its response to indoor environmental
contamination, the IG concluded, ``EPA's actions to evaluate, mitigate,
and control risks to human health from exposure to indoor air
pollutants in the World Trade Center area were consistent with
applicable statutes and regulations.''
Ultimately, the EPA IG report was incomplete because the IG did not
interview other officials at other federal agencies such as OSHA and
CEQ. Following the release of the 2003 EPA IG report, my staff prepared
a report reviewing the IG's findings and interviewing EPA IG personnel,
former acting Administrator Marianne Horinko, CEQ Chairman Jim
Connaughton, and OSHA Assistant Administrator John Henshaw. I request
that report appear in the hearing record.
While the EPA IG was critical of EPA's response, not all officials
were critical of the response to September 11th. Dr. Thomas Frieden,
the New York City Commissioner of Public Health testified at an EPW
Clean Air Subcommittee hearing held in New York City in February 2002,
``One of the most vivid pictures to emerge is one of unprecedented
cooperation between local, state, and federal health, environmental,
and occupational agencies. The teamwork is quite extraordinary.''
I hope this hearing does not focus on the conflicting findings of a
four year old IG report. Instead, I hope this hearing provides
legitimate Congressional oversight on activities in which EPA is
In January 2007, EPA opened the public registration for a new Lower
Manhattan Test and Clean Program. This program is designed to test for
elevated levels of four contaminants associated with dust from the
collapse of the World Trade Center. FEMA has provided $7 million to EPA
for this work. I understand that members of the expert panel CEQ and
EPA convened for this purpose are dissatisfied that a more exacting
program could not be developed. However, I have an August 2006, letter
from New York City Health Commissioner Frieden stating, ``The
environmental investigations and testing conducted in lower Manhattan
indicates that potential health impacts from any remaining [World Trade
Center] dust are extremely low or non-existent.'' I ask consent that
this letter appear in the hearing record.
We have witnesses that I know will shed further light on many of
the issues involving the World Trade Center and its aftermath, and I
look forward to their testimony. In conclusion, I would also like to
point out that Chairman Connaughton has volunteered to testify although
he is the target of litigation involving the World Trade Center. The
complaint against him has been dismissed in the district court, and the
appellate court affirmed that decision. I would request that Senators
recognize that there may be questions that Chairman Connaughton may
want to answer but may choose to decline because it may not be prudent
given the litigation.
I appreciate all the witnesses'participation this morning.
Senator Clinton. Without objection.
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Senator Clinton. I would now like to introduce our first
panel: James Connaughton, Chairman, White House Council on
Environmental Quality; Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator,
EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response; John
Stephenson, Director of Government Accountability Office,
Natural Resources and Environment Division; and Sven Rodenbeck,
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
I would just remind our panelists that your written
testimony will be made a part of the record in full. We ask
that you limit your spoken testimony to 5 minutes. When the
yellow light goes on, that means you have 1 minute remaining.
When the red light goes on, you have passed the 5-minute mark,
so please, if you would, wrap your testimony up so we will have
time for questions.
Mr. Connaughton, please proceed.
STATEMENT OF JAMES L. CONNAUGHTON, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL ON
Mr. Connaughton. Thank you very much, Chairwoman Clinton,
Ranking Member Craig, nice to see you again, Senator Inhofe,
and I am sorry Senator Boxer is not here. But I want to
acknowledge her; I have had a very good working relationship
with her since she has taken the helm of the committee.
I welcome the opportunity to testify today to once again go
through the tragedy of September 11th, which was unprecedented
in its scope. The physical, the psychological and the social
toll of that terrible act of terrorism was vast at the time and
it continues to this day.
The complexity of the situation facing the local, State and
Federal Governments responding to this terrorist attack was
immense. The work by all was heroic. But I would particularly
call out the work by the Environmental Protection Agency. I had
direct, personal involvement on a day to day, hour by hour and
in some cases minute by minute, with the folks in the field and
the folks here in Washington. I saw professionalism at its
I would note that many of the officials that are being
discussed and the official actions being discussed at this
hearing were undertaken by New Yorkers, Federal Government
officials who were New Yorkers, Federal Government officials
who were from New Jersey. Governor Whitman herself was the
Governor of New Jersey. Her own son was at the foot of the
World Trade Center when the first plane hit and called her by
cell phone, something I know because I was in her office when
that call came through.
My own son that day spent the entire day at school thinking
that I had been blown up by terrorists. The look on his face
when I returned at the end of that long day to find out that I
was alive was a look that I will never forget.
So the efforts undertaken by the Government were not just
professional, they were also passionate and deeply personal. I
think that is what this conversation is about. That passion was
singularly dedicated to the safety and well-being of the
citizens of New York, of the rescue workers that came in from
all over the country to help on that day and the community, the
broader community associated and the families associated with
Chairwoman Clinton, I particularly want to call out your
leadership on this subject as well as that of Senator Inhofe
and Senator Lieberman in particular in providing very
constructive oversight over the last 5 years on this subject,
and not just oversight, but sound, good advice as we continue
to cope with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York
City. I think you have been very thoughtful in the questions
you have asked, I think you have been diligent in your pursuit
of answers and your patience in getting the whole story. Most
importantly, you have been very practical in working together
and finding sensible solutions. I am glad that that continues.
Turning first to the wide variety of risk communication
issues, including those involving air quality, but recognizing
that we had dozens and dozen of risk communication issues we
were dealing with, the Environmental Protection Agency did its
utmost to communicate the best available information accurately
and in a timely fashion to meet the needs of lower Manhattan
residents, workers and businesses. To that end, EPA worked very
closely with the State of New York, the city of New York, OSHA,
and the Council on Environmental Quality to ensure the safety,
health and well-being of the residents of lower Manhattan.
The Federal Government's communications in September 2001
and subsequently were conveyed real-time in very fast-moving
circumstances, using a variety of approaches at a variety of
levels. In all instances, the Federal agencies acted with the
best available data at the time and updated their
communications and actions as new information was obtained.
Many of the allegations that have been raised in the
opening statements here have been gone over again and again in
the last several years. But they really culminated in the
Senate EPW oversight investigation and then after that, in
2004, these were carefully gone over by the 9/11 Commission,
which came to conclusions other than those being described in
some of the opening statements that were made today.
We all learned a great deal from September 11th, including
how to improve Federal response and communications efforts. But
I would note, those improvements happened real-time in response
to the episode itself. EPA did some amazing work in getting
web-based access to resources. We had a level of interaction
and coordination in communication that we had not had before.
September 11th itself was an improvement in agency processes.
Subsequent to that, the agencies have done numerous lessons
learned exercises and those were ultimately incorporated into
their National Approach to Response at EPA. But more broadly,
we saw very rapidly the establishment of the Homeland Security
Council, under Tom Ridge, as well as the creation of the
Department of Homeland Security, which has institutionalized
within a very short period of time those lessons learned.
With respect to the test and cleanup program, I just want
to say again, Chairwoman Clinton, that I appreciated the
opportunity to sit down with you in October 2003 to work out a
plan for moving forward. I think our staffs worked very well
together in quickly developing a workable strategy, identifying
appropriate resources and using an expert-led process with
significant public involvement under the supervision and
management of seasoned EPA professionals.
I have not been directly involved in that process since
then, but EPA has briefed me from time to time on its progress,
because I wanted to be sure, Madam Chairwoman, that we were
keeping track in the arrangement that we had reached. I am
pleased that the top dogs at EPA, Administrator Susan Bodine,
accompanied by Assistant Administrator, George Gray, are here
today, who have been very closely associated with that effort.
As we move forward, Madam Chairwoman and members of the
committee, I think this inquiry is useful. I think getting the
full story is helpful and I think we should continue to inform
our efforts as we go forward. I hope to never have to employ
the processes that we employed on September 11th again on our
soil, and I think we can all share that view.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Connaughton follows:]
Statement of James L. Connaughton, Chairman, Council on
Chairwoman Clinton, Ranking Member Craig and Members of the
Committee, I welcome the opportunity to testify today. The tragedy of
September 11th was unprecedented in its scope. The complexity of the
situation facing the local, state, and Federal governments in
responding to this terrorist attack was immense--the work by all was
Chairwoman Clinton, I appreciate your leadership, as well as that
of Senator Inhofe and Senator Lieberman, in providing constructive
oversight and advice as we continue to cope with the aftermath of the
terrorist attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001. You have been
thoughtful with your questions, diligent in your pursuit of answers,
and practical in working to find sensible solutions.
With respect to a wide variety of risk communication issues,
including those involving air quality, the Environmental Protection
Agency did its utmost to communicate the best available information
accurately, and in a timely fashion to meet the needs of lower-
Manhattan residents, workers, and businesses. To that end, EPA worked
with the State of New York, the City of New York, OSHA, and the Council
on Environmental Quality to ensure the safety, health, and wellbeing of
the residents of lower-Manhattan.
The Federal government's communications in September of 2001 were
conveyed real-time in fast-moving circumstances, using a variety of
approaches, at a variety of levels. In all instances, federal agencies
acted with the best available data at the time, and updated their
communications and actions as new information was obtained.
We all learned a great deal following September 11th, including how
to improve federal response and communications efforts. EPA completed a
lessons learned document for the World Trade Center response in
February 2002. EPA has used these lessons learned as well as lessons
learned from subsequent responses to strengthen its organizational
structure, to improve its preparedness and response program, and to
develop its National Approach to Response. EPA will be discussing those
changes during today's testimony. These improvements were successfully
put to the test in the swift and well-coordinated response to the space
shuttle Columbia tragedy in February 2003.
With respect to the test and cleanup program, I appreciated the
opportunity to sit down with you in October 2003 to work out a plan
moving forward, building on the substantial effort previously
undertaken. In a relatively short period of time, our staffs were able
to quickly develop a workable strategy, identify appropriate resources,
and initiate an expert-led process, with significant public
involvement, under the supervision and management of seasoned EPA
Although I have not been directly involved since that time, EPA has
briefed me on its progress. I am pleased that Assistant Administrator
Susan Bodine, accompanied by Assistant Administrator George Gray, are
here today to discuss their efforts to date.
Along with EPA's leadership and expertise, I look forward to
continuing to work with you, Members of the New York Congressional
Delegation, and Members of this Committee. Thank you for the
opportunity to testify, and I look forward to answering your questions.
Senator Clinton. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF SUSAN PARKER BODINE, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR,
OFFICE OF SOLID WASTE AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE, U.S.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, ACCOMPANIED BY: GEORGE GRAY,
ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR, OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT,
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Ms. Bodine. Good morning, Madam Chairman, Senator Craig,
members of the subcommittee. I am Susan Bodine, I am the
Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and
Emergency Response. I am accompanied here today by Dr. George
Gray, who is EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of
Research and Development. It was that office that coordinated
the test and clean program with the city and with Region 2 of
Thank you for the opportunity to be here to discuss both
EPA's National Response Plan and their role in that plan, as
well as EPA support for the World Trade Center response.
On September 11th, our country was attacked by terrorists.
There is a reason that we call them terrorists. They want to
destroy our sense of security, they want to damage our economy
and they want to create fear. On 9/11, their overall mission
failed. Today, America is stronger than ever.
But these terrorist acts caused a great deal of pain and
suffering. There are a lot of individual victims of 9/11:
people who were trapped in the Twin Towers or in the Pentagon
or on Flight 93; people who were caught in the initial dust
cloud when the Towers fell; the rescue workers who put their
own lives at risk to help others; and the people who live and
work in lower Manhattan.
I am very proud of our Nation's response to this attack,
and I am sure, and I think it has already been discussed, some
members of this subcommittee went to Ground Zero in New York
City in the days and weeks after the attack as part of your
oversight responsibility. The scene there was very impressive
and very emotional. What you saw was everybody working together
to do their utmost both to help our Nation recover from the
attack and to help the victims.
The Federal agencies that responded to the World Trade
Center disaster did an incredible job working together under
our National Response Plan. It was called the Federal Response
Plan, they changed the name. That was the overall framework for
coordinating activities. As you know, the Federal Government's
emergency authorities under the Stafford Act are activated when
a Governor requests the President to declare a major Federal
disaster; and then further, if, at the time FEMA, now Secretary
for Homeland Security, determines that the State and local
resources are going to be so overwhelmed that it is an incident
of national significance, then we can also trigger the
structure of the National Response Plan to provide assistance.
The Federal assistance is divided into 15 separate emergency
support functions. Agencies have leads under emergency support
functions as well as support roles.
Now, EPA is the coordinator and primary agency under
Emergency Support Function 10, which is oil and hazardous
substance materials response. On 9/11, that was the structure
we were working under. FEMA activated Emergency Support
Function 10, and EPA received its first mission assignment on
9/11. EPA responded immediately. Our Region 2 headquarters is
located in lower Manhattan. We have one of our special teams,
the Environmental Response Team, located in Edison, NJ. With
these assets in place, we were there. EPA personnel were there
on the very first day and on the first day, they were already
collecting air monitoring data for asbestos, lead and volatile
As each day passed, we expanded our sampling programs and
monitoring programs and ultimately took tens of thousands of
samples and over a quarter of a million data points based on
those samples. At that time, it was the most complex effort in
the history of the Agency. At every step of the way, we were
working not only with other Federal agencies, but we were
coordinating also with top scientific and medical experts,
again, from all levels of Government and from the academic
world. We pulled together teams of experts to establish
benchmarks. We found ways of getting test results quickly. We
found ways of getting them up on our Web site quickly and
available to the public, so everyone could see the data.
In 2002, EPA also provided oversight and sampling for an
indoor cleanup program that is going to be discussed today.
Then in December 2006, EPA announced the availability of
further testing and cleaning in lower Manhattan. Again, I know
that that will be the topic of discussion today.
In my last few seconds, I want to summarize why I am saying
America is stronger than ever. We have talked about lessons
learned. We can always improve. EPA now is even more prepared
to respond. In 2003, we introduced our National Approach to
Response that takes the view that it is the entire Agency that
needs to work together cohesively to respond to an emergency.
That means we embrace the National Incident Management System,
which is part of the National Response Plan. That means we have
trained our people under an Incident Command System, which
again is part of the National Response Plan, so everybody knows
what they are supposed to do when an emergency happens.
We have added additional on-scene coordinators. We have
created a West Coast Environmental Response Team like the one
in Edison that responded. We have created a National
Decontamination Team. We have increased our response capacity
by training over 2,000 people in incident command as well as
creating a Response Support Corps. We have done a number of
additional things I don't have time to go into. In the written
testimony, there is more detail.
I just want to make sure that you know that EPA today is
better prepared to respond to any emergency. We stand ready to
support State and local governments when the next emergency
[The prepared statement of Ms. Bodine follows:]
Statement of Susan Parker Bodine, Assistant Administrator, Office of
Solid Waste and Emergency Response, U.S. Environmental Protection
Good morning, Madam Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. I am
Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and
Emergency Response, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I am
accompanied today by George Gray, Assistant Administrator of EPA's
Office of Research and Development. Thank you for the opportunity to
discuss EPA's role under the National Response Plan (NRP) and Agency
efforts associated with the World Trade Center response.
EPA'S NATIONAL RESPONSE ROLE
As with other federal agencies, EPA's response pursuant to a
disaster declared by the President is facilitated through the NRP. The
NRP facilitates federal support to State and local governments. Under
the NRP, EPA is the Coordinator and Primary Agency for Emergency
Support Function (ESE) #10--Oil and Hazardous Materials Response. EPA
is one of many agencies that may be activated to provide coordinated
federal support during an incident, and like the other responding
agencies, EPA receives mission assignments from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) to carry out activities in support of state
and local governments.
Our primary activities under ESF #10 include: efforts to detect,
identify, contain, clean up or dispose of oil or hazardous materials;
removal of drums and other bulk containers; collection of household
hazardous waste; monitoring of debris disposal; air and water quality
monitoring and sampling; and protection of natural resources. EPA is
also a support agency for a number of other Emergency Support
EPA RESPONSE AT WORLD TRADE CENTER
EPA played a key role in the nation's response to the September 11,
2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. We
activated our emergency response personnel alter the first plane hit
the North Tower. Before we knew the tragic consequences of the attack,
EPA's responders, most of whom were located in our offices in Edison,
New Jersey, headed to the site. After the collapse of the World Trade
Center Towers, EPA began environmental monitoring of the resulting dust
and debris. EPA responded pursuant to its first mission assignment
under ESF #10 on September 11, 2001. EPA tested the air in the areas
surrounding the World Trade Center site, including Brooklyn and Jersey
City, New Jersey. On the first day, we tested for asbestos, lead and
volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
As each day passed, EPA expanded its sampling program and
ultimately the Agency took tens of thousands of samples of air, dust
and water, which yielded close to a quarter of a million results.
Levels of pollutants were sometimes elevated, particularly on the
debris pile, but for the most part levels of contaminants in the
ambient air outside of the immediate vicinity of the pile were not at
The information that EPA was giving to the public through daily
interactions with the media was that workers should wear protective
equipment and any person who experienced health effects should see a
doctor. We shared data with reporters every day. As soon as we were
able, we put our data on our Web site and made it available to the
public from our offices in Lower Manhattan.
EPA also sampled drinking water from water mains in Lower
Manhattan. In addition, the Agency sampled water from the Hudson and
East Rivers and wastewater from a treatment plant in Brooklyn after
several rainfalls to check for pollutants emanating from the World
Trade Center site. While EPA detected one instance of slightly elevated
PCBs in rainwater runoff at the wastewater treatment plant, ambient
surface water sampling results did not indicate human health or
EPA worked closely with the city to remove as much of the dust from
public spaces as we could, including streets and parks. EPA even
replaced sand in sandboxes. The City augmented our efforts by washing
down streets, sidewalks and building exteriors. We also established
worker and truck wash stations in both Lower Manhattan and on Staten
Island to prevent dust from migrating from the recovery site.
When the initial phase of recovery efforts drew to an end, EPA
through its Interagency Agreements with FEMA, responded to the ongoing
concerns of Lower Manhattan residents with a residential indoor dust
cleanup program. We consulted with city, state and other federal health
and environmental officials to find a way to offer free cleaning and
testing to all residents in Lower Manhattan. In developing our program,
EPA met extensively with resident and tenant organizations,
environmental and community groups, community boards and many city,
state, and federal elected officials to refine the clean and test
program. The program was launched in June 2002, with cleaning and
testing activities continuing through the following spring. In the end,
more than 4,000 residences were either tested or cleaned. Of the
approximately 29,000 residential air samples taken, about 0.4 percent
exceeded health-based benchmarks for asbestos. The program was
completed in the summer of 2003.
EPA TEST AND CLEAN PROGRAM
On December 6, 2006, EPA announced the beginning of a $7-million,
FEMA-funded program to further test indoor spaces in Lower Manhattan.
Under this program, EPA has offered to test indoor spaces in Lower
Manhattan in order to give information to people who have remaining
concerns about possible contaminants in their indoor spaces. One
challenge with such a program is that most of the contaminants that are
associated with the World Trade Center dust are also found in every
urban environment. EPA scientists did research to see if there is a
reliable method to identify dust as being from the World Trade Center.
Ultimately, after extensive peer review, EPA concluded that there is
not a reliable method to definitively identify World Trade Center dust
and distinguish it from other sources of such dust. In addition, the
vast majority of occupied residential and commercial spaces in Lower
Manhattan have been repeatedly cleaned in the more than 5 years since
the terrorist attacks. However, we wanted to give people another
opportunity to find out about possible contamination in their homes.
The program allows residents and building owners in Lower Manhattan
to have the air and dust in their units tested for four contaminants
associated with dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Priority for testing is based on a property's proximity to the World
Trade Center site. If analysis of dust and air samples indicates
elevated levels of any of four contaminants of concern--asbestos, lead,
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and man-made vitreous fibers such as
fiberglass--the contaminants will be cleaned up. The registration
period for this program closed on March 31, 2007. Twenty five building
representatives and 272 individual residents registered for the
program. Testing of interior spaces is expected to begin later this
year for all registrants who have sent access agreements to EPA.
CHANGING THE ORGANIZATION TO MEET GROWING NEEDS OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Agency has made broad,
national improvements to its emergency response program. EPA took
several steps to reorganize around its new emergency response and
homeland security functions, including the creation of an Office of
Homeland Security and the establishment of a new position of Associate
Administrator for Homeland Security. Additionally, we have reorganized
OSWER's emergency response functions under a single office--the Office
of Emergency Management, which focuses on emergency planning,
preparedness and response. This new organization allows us to
concentrate our efforts and our resources to meet the national
requirements identified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
as well as our internal planning, preparedness, and response goals.
We increased our specialized dedicated emergency response staff to
improve our preparedness and response capabilities. The Agency hired 50
additional On-Scene Coordinators specifically trained to deal with
Incidents of National Significance (INS) and issues relating to Weapons
of Mass Destruction. We expanded and extended the capabilities of our
existing Environmental Response Team (ERT) responsible for
technological support and training through the establishment of an
additional ERT office in Las Vegas, NV. We established a National
Decontamination Team dedicated to providing decontamination expertise
related to biological, chemical, and radiological agents used as
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
The National Decontamination Team is the first of its kind and
provides general scientific support and technical expertise for
identifying technologies and methods for decontamination of buildings,
building contents, public infrastructure (including waste/drinking
water plants, chemical plants, power plants, food processing facilities
and subways), agriculture, and associated environmental media (air,
soil and water). This special team is honing its expertise, building
relationships with other agencies, and providing training to EPA
responders. Most importantly, it is developing a Decontamination
Portfolio which will include comprehensive analytical, sampling, and
decontamination methods, as well as health and safety information for
chemical, biological and radiochemical agents.
EPA's newly renovated Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is EPA's
hub for emergency management communication and coordination. The EOC is
capable of 24/7 operations and has its own independent computer center,
backup power source and dedicated HVAC, and has a secure access
Staff in the EOC provide situational awareness to EPA management
during emergency responses and are the central link with regional and
field response assets. The EOC is linked to many other federal
operations centers including the FEMA National Response Coordination
Center, DHS's Homeland Security Operations Center and the U.S. Coast
Guard Command Center.
Emergency response and associated homeland security issues remain
among EPA's top priorities. EPA has drafted a Homeland Security Work
Plan to provide a framework for advancing the Agency to our next level
EPA'S NATIONAL APPROACH TO RESPONSE TARGETED IMPROVEMENTS
In addition to strengthening our organizational structure, EPA
strengthened its policy as well. EPA's National Approach to Response
(NAR) was established in June 2003 to complement the government-wide
NRP and National Incident Management System (NIMS). This policy ensures
efficient use of emergency response assets within the Agency, creates
the necessary consistency across the regions, and highlights priorities
for further policy development and coordination. An important facet of
the NAR is the recognition that an effective response requires
participation from the entire Agency, not just those offices
traditionally responsible for emergency response activities. This
approach initially grew out of the lessons learned during the response
to the September 11th attacks, and experience (e.g. anthrax, Columbia
Space Shuttle, Hurricane Katrina) continues to inform its direction.
The NAR has had a positive and tangible impact on EPA's ability to
respond to an INS. In fact, as a result of these efforts, EPA responded
more effectively to Hurricane Katrina, one of the largest coordinated
response efforts in history. Today, I will highlight some of the
actions we have taken under the NAR to improve our processes,
procedures and capabilities during an INS.
EPA has made a major effort to train responders at all levels in
the Incident Management System, as required under NIMS. To date, EPA
has trained approximately 2000 staff in the Incident Command System
(ICS) and has expanded the training program to include EPA executive
leadership, and non-emergency response volunteers from across the
Agency. As a result of this training, ICS is used in EPA's day-to-day
response operations and was successfully used in the response to
EPA's resource of voluntary support personnel proved to be
invaluable during our response to Hurricane Katrina when we needed to
fill support roles at every level of the response on a 24/7 basis.
Since the Katrina Response, EPA has made improvements to this important
program. The Response Support Corps is finalizing national guidelines
to facilitate consistency in its recruitment, training, and activation.
The new basic training Program is designed to ensure that all
volunteers understand ICS structure and the expectations of a response.
In addition, a national database has been developed to track the
skills, experience and training of all volunteers.
EPA ensured communication with the public was one of its top
priorities under the NAR. After the September 11th response, the Agency
created a Crisis Communications Workgroup with the continuing goal of
providing timely, accurate and consistent information to the public at
the time of a response. The Workgroup is designing several new products
including a training program specific to the public
information role, which is an important aspect of the ICS structure.
Incident and Data Management
EPA implemented a new information technology strategy to manage
data more efficiently and consistently during a response event. This
strategy was developed during the response to Hurricane Katrina, as
part of an overall process to expedite the review and public posting of
the results of over 400,000 laboratory analyses. EPA adapted and
integrated existing Agency technology to provide interfaces that
allowed the electronic flow of data from the field to the public. Data
was posted promptly on the Internet for all media analyzed (floodwater,
sediments, soil, surface water, air). This integrated approach is now
serving as the prototype for the Emergency Management Portal currently
under development to address day-to-day responses, as well as other
On September 11, 2001, the ability of all agencies to respond was
seriously impacted following the collapse of the World Trade Center
towers as cell phones and Internet connections were damaged. Under our
telecommunication priority workgroup, EPA developed standards for
quality, quantity and type of communications equipment that should be
available to responders in each Region. Over the last three years, EPA
purchased, evaluated and installed complex technology to create a
national communications network for EPA responders. Through this
national approach, EPA has amassed a pool of equipment that can be used
daily in each region and shared quickly among regions during a
disaster. This strategy paid off during the Katrina response when
satellite dishes, radios and other communication equipment were sent
from every region to assist Regions 4 and 6. As a result, EPA had data
(Internet) and voice communications in areas that were otherwise
disconnected for many months.
Environmental Lab Capacity
EPA recognizes that our responsibilities under homeland security
require us to increase our capacity to analyze and process a large
number of field samples for contaminants directly related to terrorist
threats based on needs identified after the 9/11 and Capitol Hill
anthrax incidents. EPA created a compendium of labs with various pre-
identified capabilities that can be accessed as needed during a large
scale event, and is establishing an Environmental Laboratory Response
Network (eLRN) of labs capable of handling chemical, biological, and
radiological agents. EPA, in conjunction with Department of Defense and
DHS, developed two prototype triage facilities to handle unknown
samples in order to protect laboratory staffs health and safety and
laboratory assets. We are also working with DHS to expand chemical
warfare agent lab capabilities in fixed laboratories and to design high
capacity mobile units.
CONTRIBUTING TO FEDERAL HOMELAND AND SECURITY EFFORTS
EPA has a long history in emergency preparedness, planning and
response. This experience allowed us to play a strong role in the
development of the NRP and NIMS. EPA continues to learn from its
experiences and is working with DHS to incorporate changes as the NRP
is being revised.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to tell you about some of
the critical steps EPA has taken to meet the needs of the public and
the nation in its continued response to the September 11th attacks, and
in preparation for another major incident. While the EPA requests only
one part of the larger efforts occurring at the Federal, State and
local levels, we take our role very seriously. We can never know the
exact nature or location of the next incident. The extraordinary
efforts of our response staff on a daily basis, combined with EPA's
NAR, allows me to say that EPA stands ready to respond wherever and
whenever it is needed.
Response by Susan Bodine to an Additional Question from Senator Inhofe
Question. EPA has consistently maintained that there were no
elevated levels of contaminants largely in the immediate vicinity of
the World Trade Center. For the hearing record, please describe the
steps EPA took with other agencies involved immediately after September
11 to determine the levels of contaminants and EPA's actions to protect
Response. Extent of Contamination.--The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and many other agencies collected and analyzed
environmental samples after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World
Trade Center (WTC). EPA has posted much of its monitoring data on its
Website at http://www.epa.gov/wtc/monitoring/index.html.
EPA has also made all of its data available to the public through
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Columbia
University at http://wtc.hs.columbia.edu/wtc/Default.aspx.
The EPA sampling data and the data from many other federal and
state agencies are also available on a CD at http://oaspub.epa.gov/nyr/
Remote monitoring data was collected and analyzed by the United
States Geological Survey (USGS, 2001), the Aerospace Corporation
(2002), and EPA's Environmental Photographic and Interpretation Center
(US EPA, December 2005). The New York City Department of Environmental
Protection (NYCDEP) conducted a building-by-building survey of the
lower Manhattan buildings to determine the extent of external
contamination. The plumes resulting from the collapse of the towers and
subsequent fires were modeled by EPA (Gilliam, et al., 2005, Huber, et
It is clear from this data that the plumes from the collapse of the
WTC and subsequent fires impacted much of the New York City (NYC) metro
area. The most heavily impacted area is approximately bounded on the
north by Chambers Street and the Brooklyn Bridge approaches. This area
is entirely contained within the area that was the subject of EPA
Region 2's 2002-2003 Indoor Air Residential Assistance Program.
Impacts on the Indoor Environment.--Shortly after the 9/11 attack,
concerns were raised about the impact of the attack on the indoor
environment. The Ground Zero Task Force commissioned a survey of two
residential buildings (Chatfield & Kominsky, 2001). The buildings
sampled were 45 Warren Street, four blocks north of Ground Zero
(undamaged); and 250 South End Avenue, close to Ground Zero, to the
southwest of the WTC (damaged). The Warren Street building was
considered to have been exposed to lower concentrations of dust than
that at South End Avenue. The purpose of the survey was to assess the
levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, furans, metals,
and asbestos inside the buildings. Sampling was conducted on September
18, 2001 The report concluded that concentrations of PCBs, dioxins,
furans, and metals (excluding calcium) were generally low or below
comparative background levels at both locations. Concentrations of
asbestos found in dust samples and in the air inside the apartments
were significantly elevated, and all of the indoor samples collected in
the South End Avenue building exceeded 0.05 S/cc PCMe (structures per
cubic centimeter phase contrast microscopy equivalents).
From November 4 through December 11, 2001, the New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH) and the Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) collected environmental
samples in and around 30 residential buildings in lower Manhattan, and
comparison samples in four buildings above 59th Street (NYCDOHMH/ATSDR,
2002). The samples collected were analyzed for asbestos, synthetic
vitreous fibers, mineral components of concrete (crystalline silica,
calcite, and portlandite), and mineral components of building wallboard
(gypsum, mica, and halite). Their 2002 report concluded that higher
levels of asbestos, synthetic vitreous fibers (e.g., fiberglass),
mineral components of concrete, and mineral components of building
wallboard were found in settled surface dust in lower Manhattan
residential areas when compared with comparison residential areas above
59th Street. NYCDOHMH and ATSDR recommended:
(1) Frequent cleaning with HEPA vacuums and damp cloths/mops to
reduce the potential for exposure;
(2) Additional monitoring of residential areas in lower Manhattan;
(3) An investigation to better define background levels specific to
New York City for asbestos, synthetic vitreous fibers, mineral
components of concrete, and mineral components of building wallboard;
(4) Residents in lower Manhattan who were concerned about potential
WTC-related dust in their residences participate in EPA Region 2's
Indoor Air Residential Assistance Program.
In February 2002, a multi-agency task force headed by EPA was
formed to evaluate indoor environments for the presence of contaminants
that might pose long-term health risks to residents. As part of this
evaluation, a task force subcommittee was established (COPC Committee)
to identify contaminants of potential concern that were likely to be
associated with the WTC disaster and to establish health-based
benchmarks for those contaminants during the planned (2002-2003)
Assistance Program in lower Manhattan. A systematic risk-based approach
was used to select COPC. The goal was to identify those contaminants
likely to be present within indoor environments at levels of health
concern. The following chemicals were identified as COPC: dioxins,
PAHs, lead, asbestos, fibrous glass, and crystalline silica.
Risk-based benchmarks were developed to be protective of long-term
habitability of residential dwellings and were submitted for peer
review (US EPA, 2003a). EPA also conducted a cleaning study to evaluate
the performance of the cleaning methods recommended in the NYCDOHMH and
ATSDR report to ensure that the health-based benchmarks could be
achieved by using them (US EPA, 2003c). EPA concluded the following:
(1) Observation of apparently WTC dust at that time was a good
indicator that WTC contaminants were present, and the amount of such
dust correlated with the level of contamination;
(2) Concentrations of some contaminants in the WTC dust were
elevated above health-based benchmarks;
(3) Use of a standard cleaning method of vacuuming and wet wiping
significantly reduced levels of WTC-related contamination with each
cleaning event and was successful in reducing concentrations to levels
below health-based benchmarks (in some cases, 2 or 3 cleanings were
(4) Asbestos in air is a good indicator of whether additional
cleaning is needed; and
(5) Standard HVAC cleaning methods reduced the concentrations of
WTC contaminants in HVAC systems.
Concurrently, EPA also conducted a ``Background Study'' to
determine levels of selected contaminants in fourteen residential
buildings (north of 77th Street in Manhattan) not directly impacted by
the airborne dust plume that emanated from the WTC site (US EPA,
2003b). EPA sampled 25 residential units and nine common areas within
the 14 buildings. The contaminants studied included: asbestos, lead,
dioxins, PAHs, fibrous glass, crystalline silica, calcite, gypsum, and
portlandite. The data collected from this study provided estimates of
background concentrations for compounds that were identified as COPC
related to the WTC collapse. The estimates were shown to be consistent
with other background studies and historical data, where such
comparison data were available.
Beginning in 2002, residents of lower Manhattan, who lived below
Canal Street were provided a choice of services. Residents could choose
to have their residence professionally cleaned, followed by
confirmatory testing, or they could choose to just have their homes
tested. Owners and managers of residential buildings and boards of
cooperatives and condominiums could also have their building's common
areas cleaned and tested and the HVAC system evaluated and cleaned, as
necessary. The common areas cleaned and tested included areas such as
the building lobby, hallways, stairways, and elevator interiors.
Certain other common areas, including laundry rooms, utility rooms,
compactor rooms and elevator shafts, were tested and cleaned as needed.
Between September 2002 and May 2003, residences were cleaned using
standard asbestos cleanup methods: using HEPA-filtered vacuums and wet
wiping all horizontal hard surfaces (i.e., floors, ceilings, ledges,
trims, furnishings, appliances, equipment, etc.). Vertical and soft
surfaces were HEPA vacuumed two times. Depending upon the size of the
residence, from three to five air samples were collected and analyzed
for asbestos by using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and phase
contrast microscopy (PCM). A total of 4,167 apartments in 454 buildings
and 793 common areas in 144 buildings were sampled for asbestos in air.
A total of 28,702 valid sample results were analyzed; 22,497 from
residential units, and 6,205 from common areas within residential
buildings (e.g., hallways, laundry rooms). In a subset of the
residences, pre and post-cleanup dust wipe samples were collected
(e.g., from floors, walls, and furniture) and analyzed for dioxin,
mercury, lead, and 21 other metals.
Of the total of 28,702 valid residential asbestos in air results
generated, the number of samples that exceeded the health-based
benchmarks for airborne asbestos was very small, 0.47% for the clean
and test residences and 0.5% for the test only residences. In those
residences and common spaces where the benchmark was exceeded in both
residences and in common spaces, the cleanup program was successful in
achieving the health-based benchmark for asbestos after the first
cleaning approximately 99% of the time. An analysis of the location of
asbestos exceedances does not demonstrate a spatial pattern of
exceedances relative to WTC proximity. Apparent groups of asbestos
exceedances could be explained by the location in the sampled buildings
and the variability in the number of samples that were collected from
each building. When we compared the frequency of detection from samples
collected from clean and test and test only residences with the
frequency of detection for samples collected in the background study,
we found that they were similar. There was a detection rate of 2% in
lower Manhattan (2.2% clean and test and 1.94% for test only) and 5% in
upper Manhattan. The minimum concentrations from both areas were
identical, while the maximum detected concentration in lower Manhattan
was higher than the maximum detected concentration in upper Manhattan.
Although the maximum detected concentrations were not similar between
the two areas, the percentage of samples that exceeded the health-based
criteria was similar, with 0.5% (of all asbestos samples) in lower
Manhattan and 0.0% (no exceedances) in upper Manhattan. The mean values
appear to be indistinguishable from background values.
Wipe samples were collected from 263 apartments in 156 buildings.
Aproximately 14% of the pre-cleanup samples exceeded the 25 mg/
ft2 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
screening level for lead. There were very few exceedances of the
health-based screening values measured for any of the other 22 metals.
The 627 mg/m2 screening value for antimony was exceeded in
two pre-cleanup samples (0.1% of all samples); the maximum measured
value was 1,180 mg/m2. The 157 mg/m2 screening
value for mercury was exceeded in five pre-cleanup samples (0.4% of all
samples). The health-based benchmark for residential dust dioxin
loading of 2 mg/m2 was exceeded in four pre-cleanup samples
(0.26% of all samples). The percentage of apartments that exceeded the
lead health-based benchmark was greater than the percentages of
apartments that had exceedances for other metals, mercury and dioxin.
The frequency of detection, the maximum detected concentration, and the
percentage of samples that exceeded the risk-based criteria were higher
in the dust cleanup program in lower Manhattan when compared with the
results from the background study in upper Manhattan for both test and
clean and test only residences. The clearest relationship found was
between lead concentrations and age of building, suggesting lead paint
as a cause for high lead measurements in lower Manhattan. Proximity to
the WTC and floor of the building seemed to be, at best, weakly related
to measured levels of lead. The level in lower Manhattan was
consistent, however, with data from the HUD on mixed age housing stock
in the northeast United States. This factor makes it difficult to
distinguish between lead from WTC dust and other sources, especially in
EPA Interpretation of Data.--With the exception of heavily impacted
buildings which remain uncleaned, such as the former Deutsche Bank
building at 130 Liberty Street, the level of contamination measured in
indoor environments in the area most heavily impacted by the plume is
low. No pattern that could be related to the WTC collapse was
detectable in this area of lower Manhattan. It appears that cleaning
efforts by residents, building owners and operators, EPA, and NYC,
where applied, have been successful in reducing levels of
contamination. The COPC asbestos, man made vitreous fibers (MMVF), and
lead, are common materials in the urban environment. Silicates form 59%
of the earth's crust. PAHs and dioxins are produced by many combustion
sources, including automobiles and the 28,000 structural fires that
occur in NYC each year. We estimate that there are over 170 million
square feet of interior space in lower Manhattan. There may be areas
within this space that have not been cleaned of WTC dust. The lack of a
specific indicator for WTC dust, the nature of the contaminants, the
widespread, low-level, background contamination from other urban
sources, and the large and varied nature of the space involved make a
sampling effort to identify additional areas whose cleanup would result
in a reduction in exposure to WTC contaminants infeasible.
EPA has identified a small number of buildings that were not
cleaned and are currently unoccupied. All of these buildings are
scheduled for demolition or reconstruction. EPA and a number of
federal, state, and local agencies are cooperating to ensure that this
work is carried out in a manner that will not adversely impact public
health and the environment.
Responses by Susan Bodine to Additional Questions from Senator Clinton
Question 1. EPA press releases announcing the latest test and clean
program state that any residual health risk is minimal. Yet we know
that people are getting sick. Just this month, a study published by
researchers from the New York State Department of Health, the NYU
School of Medicine, and SUNY at Albany concluded that residents who
were exposed to contamination generated by the collapse that had been
deposited in their homes had a significantly elevated rate of
persistent airway disease. This study also found a strong correlation
between reactive airway disease and exposures to indoor contamination
for a period of 3 months or longer.
These findings, and others like them, suggest that EPA's testing
and risk assessments, which are based on data from 2001 and 2002, are
lacking. Has EPA evaluated this and similar studies in order to inform
and revise its post 9/11 risk assessment?
Response. EPA has and continues to evaluate studies (particularly
those that appear in peer-reviewed journals) on health effects and
contaminant characterization resulting from the WTC disaster to inform
its ongoing response actions. For example, the draft risk assessment
which evaluates exposures and potential health risks from outdoor,
ambient air developed by EPA's Office of Research and Development, has
included evaluations and summaries of epidemiological studies on health
effects attributed to exposure to World Trade Center-associated
contaminants. This risk assessment, titled ``Assessment of Inhalation
Exposures and Potential Health Risks to the General Population that
Resulted from the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers'' has been
submitted as a manuscript for publication in the open literature. For
more information on the status of that risk assessment, see response to
question #10 below.
The particular study referenced in Question 1 (Upper Respiratory
Symptoms and Other Health Effects among Residents Living Near the World
Trade Center after September 11, 2001.--Am J Epidem (162) P. 499-507,
2005) focused on the indoor (residential) environment and assessed new
onset and persisting upper respiratory symptoms during approximately
the first 12 months post 9/11. One of the strengths of this study is
that it attempted to recruit a large sample of residents in the
vicinity of the WTC; however, like many epidemiologic studies, response
rate was poor as was dose reconstruction for individuals in the study.
Of particular concern is the lack of information reported in the study
as to whether any of the subjects in the affected area were caught in
the dust plume on the morning on 9/11/O1 . Acute, high intensity
exposure of this type would likely be a strong contributing factor to
new-onset upper respiratory symptoms directly after 9/11.
In announcing its latest Test and Clean Program, the notation by
EPA that residual health risk is minimal was based on information from
sampling conducted by EPA and others (see above response to question
from Senator Inhofe). Most compelling was the information obtained from
EPA's 2002/2003 Indoor Air Residential Assistance Program that serviced
over 4,000 residential apartments. The residential samples obtained
from this program were generally obtained beyond one year after the
event and were evaluated against health-based benchmarks that were
developed to be protective of long-term exposure for contaminants such
as asbestos that pose chronic health effects. Data show that about 1%
of the residences that were either tested (1.15%) or cleaned and then
tested (1.03%) exceeded EPA's benchmark for asbestos in air.
The collapse of the World Trade Center Towers resulted in impacts
to both the outdoor and indoor environments. These environmental
impacts have resulted in measured health impacts to both WTC site
workers and, to a lesser extent, the general population residing and
working in the vicinity of Ground Zero. EPA has considered this
information in its risk assessments and in its current Test and Clean
As noted in our response to Senator Inhofe's question, EPA
implemented the program to address the recommendations outlined in the
ATSDR and NYCDOH assessment.
Question 2. Just this month, a study published by researchers from
the New York State Department of Health, the NYU School of Medicine,
and SUNY at Albany concluded that residents who were exposed to
contamination generated by the collapse that had been deposited in
their homes had a significantly elevated rate of persistent airway
disease. This study also found a strong correlation between reactive
airway disease and exposures to indoor contamination for a period of 3
months or longer.
What this study indicates is that exposure to WTC dust in
residential settings caused negative health impacts after as little as
3 months of exposure. Is EPA now prepared to respond within this kind
of time frame to assess and remediate indoor contamination caused by a
building collapse or other environmental disaster?
Response. The scope and long-term timing of federal agency
response, including EPA's response, will necessarily depend, in part,
on the nature of the incident. After the events of September 11, New
York City was initially responsible for residential and indoor air
issues following the events of September 11. From the beginning, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), New York City and State, as
well as EPA, provided advice to residents on cleanup methods (wet
wiping/mopping, HEPA vacuuming) that proved effective. In addition, for
residences with more than minimal dust, EPA urged using professional
asbestos abatement cleaners.
Since that time EPA has made significant progress in preparedness
efforts to assess and remediate indoor contamination caused by a
building collapse or other environmental disaster. EPA's National
Homeland Security Research Center is engaged in an effort for the
development of subchronic health-based exposure advisory levels for the
general public called Provisional Advisory Levels (PALs). PALs address
exposure durations of one day, 30 days, and two years for chemical
contaminants detected in air or drinking water. To date, EPA has
developed PALs for over 20 chemicals (which equates to over 360
separate values: three exposure durations, for three levels of severity
and for two environmental media). In addition, EPA is also continuing
an effort with the National Research Council's Committee on Toxicology
in the development of Acute Exposure Guidance Levels (AEGLs). They are
emergency response standards applicable to the general public . They
are developed for three levels of severity and for the durations of ten
minute, 30 minute, one hour, four hour and eight hour exposures. PALs
are being developed to provide benchmarks to bridge the gap between the
acute exposure durations covered by the AEGLs and the chronic lifetime
exposures covered by inhalation RfCs (Reference Concentrations) and
oral RfDs (Reference Doses).
EPA also developed a method to assess risk from exposures to
contaminated building surfaces. This guidance will be incorporated into
an upcoming revision of the Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund,
Part E, Dermal Risk Assessment, which is expected to be released later
Question 3. In February of 2006, Whitehouse Homeland Security
Advisor Fran Townsend issued a report about the Administration's
response to Katrina. That report concluded the following:
``Federal officials could have improved the identification of
environmental hazards and communication of appropriate warnings to
emergency responders and the public . . . there must be a comprehensive
plan to accurately and quickly communicate this critical information to
the emergency responders and area residents who need it. Had such a
plan existed, the mixed messages from Federal, State, and local
officials on the reentry into New Orleans could have been avoided.''
The report went on to make the following recommendation: ``DHS, in
coordination with EPA, HHS, OSHA, and DOE should develop an integrated
plan to quickly gather environmental data and provide the public and
emergency responders the most accurate information available to decide
whether it is safe to operate in a disaster environment or return after
evacuation. This plan should address how to best communicate risk, as
well as determine who is accountable for making the determination that
an area is safe. It should also address the need for adequate
laboratory capacity to support response to all hazards. The plan should
be completed in 180 days.''
At the hearing I asked a question about whether this work had been
completed, and EPA responded that:
``The agency has been working on a crisis communication plan. It is
still in draft, it is still under review within the agency.''
Please provide a copy of that draft communication plan, as well the
timeline for completion. In addition, please provide whether EPA is
implementing the other recommendations made in the February 2006 White
House report on the Katrina response.
Response. The Townsend Report recommendation you reference
recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) develop a
plan in consultation with other federal agencies. DHS is in the best
position to report on its progress in developing this plan. EPA's
Crisis Communication Plan, (a copy is enclosed with this response)
outlines responsibilities and procedures to help ensure the public
receives accurate, timely, EPA information during a crisis. The plan
summarizes EPA's public information roles at the field, regional and
national levels during incidents of national significance; provides
guidelines for developing and distributing information to the public,
in coordination with partner agencies; and outlines the Agency's
training requirements for public information staff. EPA considers this
a living document and expects to update and revise the document
periodically. Work is also underway to develop a companion resources
guide for the implementation of the plan. This guide will include
message maps, fact sheets, templates for communication of sampling
data, job aides and other tools to assist the public information staff
during a response. The Incident Command System training course for EPA
Public Information Officers has already been revised to conform with
the information in the Crisis Communications Plan.
An important aspect of communicating risk is the coordination
between the Public Information Officer staff and the Environmental Unit
staff to assure that environmental data is communicated in an
appropriate context in plain language. In response to Katrina, a policy
was established to include an Environmental Unit in EPA Headquarters
that will work with public information staff after the data has been
evaluated, validated and interpreted to assure that the data is
presented in language that is easily understood and in formats easily
accessible to the public.
EPA also is in the process of establishing an Environmental
Response Lab Network (eLRN). The criteria for joining the eLRN will be
in place at the end of this fiscal year and will include quality
assurance and data standard requirements. The network will include
existing capabilities for standard toxic industrial chemicals as well
as chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) agents. The
environmental lab capacity for these CBR agents is limited at this time
EPA is working with the DHS, Department of Defense (DOD) and other
agencies to expand these capabilities.
Although EPA was not assigned the lead on any of the
recommendations in the 2006 White House report on the Katrina response,
EPA stands ready to continue coordination with the DHS and other
agencies to improve inter-agency coordination on this important topic
of risk communication and community outreach, and other
Question 4. In November of last year, Paul Lioy, Edo Pellizzari,
and David Prezant published an article in the journal Environmental
Science and Technology. As you know, Dr. Lioy was the Vice-Chairman of
the EPA WTC Expert Technical Review Panel and is director of the
Exposure Science Division of the EIOSHI at RWJMS, and Dr. Prezant is
the chief medical officer of the FDNY. The authors have been heavily
involved in examining contamination, exposure and health issues arising
from the 9/11 attacks. In this article, they review the lessons of 9/11
and conclude that new protocols, strategies and tools are needed in
order to better prepare for future disasters and to avoid repeating the
mistakes made after 9/11. They make a detailed set of recommendations
for EPA, OSHA and DHS, and I am going to follow up with detailed
questions about these recommendations.
In regards to the EPA, the report states: ``We need to develop
exposure-science measurement tools (personal and biological markers),
models and strategies for event preparedness. A set of ``on the
ground'' protocols is necessary for quickly assessing the hazards and
extent of contamination indoors and outdoors. Specific types of
personal and stationary monitors must be made available for placement
in strategic locations. A solution for measuring supercoarse particles
still needs to be provided. Disaster preparedness requires that we
develop an effective, universal disaster plan, with disaster-specific
components, for outdoor and indoor sampling and cleanup with
appropriate quality assurance.''
Has EPA taken steps to implement these recommendations or to
address the concerns raised by the authors?
Response. EPA has long used environmental data and a variety of
risk-based models and tools to estimate the hazards of toxic compounds
and their potential for human exposure and harm. These tools have been
tested against both real and simulated releases and have been found to
be very reliable. These tools are used to develop preparedness plans to
respond to a variety of disaster scenarios.
The response to Question 2 above provides information about ongoing
efforts to develop exposure science measurement tools, models and
strategies for event preparedness.
EPA has a number of emergency response models and tools to quickly
assess the hazards and extent of contamination at disaster sites.
Onsite monitoring data, prevailing meteorological conditions and geo-
spatial data can be processed, in real-time, to produce site-specific
maps depicting the extent, location of the contaminant plume, estimated
concentration, as well as its migration and movements. These site-
specific maps can help direct emergency response activities such as
directing sampling efforts or initiating evacuation, to hasten the
recovery efforts and protect the public.
EPA is currently evaluating its inventory of response equipment,
methods and protocols. Part of this effort has been to develop uniform
guidelines for use of response equipment and the compilation of a
database of all available response equipment throughout the agency. The
location and availability of specific monitoring equipment, vehicles,
and sampling and analysis equipment will be at the disposal of EPA OSCs
across the United States. Equipment can be deployed from any EPA
warehouse to disaster sites throughout the United States. The database
is currently undergoing beta-testing, with final release scheduled for
the end of 2007.
EPA is continually developing and refining scenario driven disaster
response plans on both the national and regional level. Inter-agency
working groups, sponsored by EPA and DHS, have developed restoration
plans for large transportation infrastructures. These have produced
universal templates that can be used in developing generic disaster
preparedness plans for a variety of scenarios. EPA is also supporting
several inter-agency working groups developing uniform validated
sampling plans, analytical methods and quality assurance protocols to
support the timely cleanup and restoration of infrastructures after
Question 5. EPA's testimony stated that the Agency did a good job
after Katrina in collecting data and making that data available.
However, the EPA IG report about EPA's Katrina response states that:
``EPA During emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina, there is an
immediate need for decision makers at various levels of government to
have reliable water quality data. One of the databases used by EPA to
store floodwater data is the SCRIBE database. EPA provided access to
the data to officials at the State level and New Orleans parishes.
However, Louisiana officials had trouble querying the database due to a
lack of training and had trouble verifying the quality of data due to
inconsistent data entry. Set protocols would address these types of
EPA regional officials concurred that problems existed with
querying SCRIBE. Region 6 officials said they have taken actions to
correct these issues. This included querying the database on behalf of
Louisiana until the issue was resolved to ensure Louisiana obtained the
information it needed. This also included Region 6 providing training
on the use of SCRIBE and making a SCRIBE user guide available to State
Clearly, the communication plan was not prepared to respond to
post-Katrina needs from outside of the Agency. How do you reconcile
your testimony with the IG's assessments? Can you please provide a
report on the steps that EPA has taken to address the problems
identified by the IG report, and to ensure that it has a fully
operational communication plan in place for response to future
Response. SCRIBE is a field tool for collecting and managing data
by On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) and other field personnel. Since SCRIBE
is a local application for use on personal computers, it is difficult
to share data consistently. During Katrina, EPA used a preexisting
water quality database to store the analytical data from the flood
water and sediment sampling. This allowed us to share the data with the
public via EPA's Enviromapper software. EPA is working to create a data
store more suited to its environmental assessment data using its new
Portal technology. Since there will be a predetermined path for the
data from the field to the central database, this technology will allow
us to securely share our data with our partners and will also assist
EPA in quickly sharing data with the general public. The Emergency
Management Portal (EMP) will allow data to be queried and viewed in
tabular format or spatially using existing EPA GIS tools. It will also
allow data to be downloaded for use in other analytical tools. This
module of the EMP is scheduled to be ready in 2008. In the interim,
another approach has been identified in lieu of the approach that was
utilized during the Hurricane Katrina response. In this interim
approach as well as the EMP approach, the sharing of information with
States and other partners will be greatly simplified and EPA does not
forsee any issues with use of the technology by our partners.
Question 6. The 9/11 Commission report states ``The EPA did not
have the health-based benchmarks needed to assess the extraordinary air
quality conditions in Lower Manhattan after 9/11. The EPA and the White
House therefore improvised and applied standards developed for other
circumstances in order to make pronouncements regarding air safety,
advising workers at Ground Zero to use protective gear and advising the
general population that the air was safe. Whether those improvisations
were appropriate is still a subject for medical and scientific
Based on the emerging scientific evidence, I believe it is clear
that the improvisations made by the EPA and the White House were
flawed, and have placed the long-term health of thousands of Americans
in jeopardy. Please provide a detailed plan of what metrics you have
designed for assessing risk, and your risk communication plan for
informing the public of those risks during future disaster scenarios.
What elements of this plan when tested by Hurricane Katrina fell short,
and how as a result have you modified your action plan in order to
protect public health and the environment?
Response. As noted in the response to Question #2 above, EPA has
and continues to take part in an inter-agency effort to develop acute
exposure guideline levels (AEGLs). AEGLS span acute exposure durations
from 10 minutes to 8 hrs. Evaluation of available AEGLs informed EPA's
position that workers on the pile should be equipped with appropriate
respiratory protection. For exposures extending beyond the acute phase
(greater than 24 hours), EPA developed screening criteria for the
ambient air based on a subchronic exposure of 1 year (the best estimate
in the days after 9/11 for site clean-up to be completed and in
retrospect a reasonable upper-bound estimate given the site clean-up
was completed by the end of May, 2002).
The methodology used to develop sub-chronic screening criteria for
the ambient air, as noted in the above 9/11 Commission quote, employed
existing standards (e.g., National Ambient Air Quality Standards--
NAAQS) where relevant and appropriate. However, standards are not
available for every chemical that may be released as the result of an
incident of national significance. Thus, for most of the contaminants
associated with the WTC disaster, screening criteria were risk-based
and developed using well-established EPA risk assessment procedures and
protocols. The full process was submitted for peer review in the draft
of the ``World Trade Center Indoor Air Assessment: Selecting
Contaminants of Concern and Setting Health Based Benchmarks_September,
2002. A similar hierarchical process (employing existing standards
where applicable then reverting to risk-based methods) was used and
well-received by the independent peer review panel, for developing
long-term benchmarks for indoor air and settled in the aforementioned
During the Hurricane Katrina response, we were able to quickly and
effectively use the methodology that had been developed post 9/11 to
generate appropriate screening levels to compare to outdoor/ambient air
monitoring results. The screening levels included relevant standards
and the development of one year, risk based criteria for those
chemicals without applicable standards. In order to ensure that EPA
uses the best available scientific information, it is critical to
develop incident-specific screening levels at the time of the response.
Question 7. In your testimony you highlight the fact that the EPA's
own Emergency Operations Center has a state of the art HVAC system in
order to allow it to operate effectively in an emergency situation (pg.
6). A building's air-handling system can be likened to its lungs, and
if its air handling system becomes internally contaminated, all persons
present within it will be continually exposed to those air
contaminants. As EPA highlights the importance of a building's air
handling system, how do you explain the fact that the EPA's test and
clean program was very restrictive in evaluating and cleaning HVAC
systems in buildings that were clearly impacted by WTC dust and debris?
Response. The configuration of HVAC systems makes it impractical to
obtain load samples (mass per unit area) that could be related to the
benchmarks. Load samples are collected with a series of templates and
equipment that cannot be reliably operated in a confined space.
Concentration (weight per weight) of a contaminant in settled dust is a
poor indicator of risk. A very dusty environment may pose a risk even
if the concentration in dust is low. Conversely, an environment with
little dust would not pose a risk even if there was a high
concentration of the contaminant in the small amount of dust. The
decision criteria for HVAC cleanup was proposed, in early plans, and
remains based on the 95% upper confidence level (UCL) for a contaminant
of potential concern (COPC) in the common areas of the building. Common
area samples will be collected in close proximity to HVAC supply ducts
in the air and of dust from surfaces in these areas. We do not consider
this to be restrictive. It is in accord with EPA cleanup goals in many
areas; an exceedance in a pathway of concern (air or dust) triggers a
Question 8. The GAO testified that they: ``found no basis for the
$7 million EPA identified to implement its second program. It was
simply the money left over from the first test and clean program, and
it is less than 20 percent of the first program's funding. EPA chose to
limit the scope of the second program to fit within these available
resources, rather than design a comprehensive program and then estimate
the resources needed to carry it out. EPA told us that if the demand
had exceeded available resources, it would have limited participation
in the program, rather than request additional resources.''
Taking into account the human health data available when the test
and clean program was implemented in 2007, how do you justify the
modest budget allotted to the program in relation to the human health
cost attributed to exposure to WTC collapse materials? What is the
EPA's policy of giving weight to economic assessments in determining an
adequate level of human health protection? In terms of protecting human
health in an emergency or disaster scenario, where current risk
analysis paradigms may have little or no applicability, what would be
the benefit of implementing a response that is directed solely from the
scientific guidance versus that, as in the post 9/11 New York, in which
economic assessments also played a directing role? What would a test
and clean program look like if it were developed without any
consideration of economic assessment or existing budgetary allotments?
Response. EPA informed GAO that there is approximately $7 million
in FEMA funds available to EPA to execute a plan. However, we did not
develop a plan based on a $7 million budget. Each plan that EPA has
proposed has included a table indicating what specific samples would be
collected in each unit, space or building sampled. Based upon our
experience in the indoor dust clean up program, and information on
contract costs in EPA's existing programs, EPA has evaluated the
potential costs for the plans by multiplying out the number of samples
by the expected sample costs and by adding estimates for the costs of
collecting samples, validating sample results and performing any
necessary cleaning. The only significant variable involved in the cost
estimates is the number of participants. Budgets did not dictate the
plans, they arose from the plans.
GAO notes that the $7 million available for the current plan is a
little less than 20% of the first program funding. In the first program
a total of 4,167 apartments and 144 buildings were sampled for asbestos
in air. In the current program, a total of 272 apartments and 25
buildings are expected to participate. EPA has not asked for additional
supplemental appropriations. At this time EPA has no reason to do so.
Regarding the development of a test and clean program without any
consideration of economic assessment or existing budgetary allotments,
our response to Senator Inhofe in Question 1 describes the efforts of
NYCDOHMH and ATSDR, the agencies responsible for public health
evaluation, in the aftermath of the WTC attack. As noted in the
testimony provided by ATSDR to your Committee, the primary finding of
their investigation was that the levels of materials detected in the
air and dust did not pose a potential health hazard provided that
recommended cleaning measures were followed. Based upon their
investigation, NYCDOHMH and ATSDR recommended:
Additional monitoring of residential areas be conducted in
Additional investigation be conducted to define background
levels specific to the City of New York; and
Lower Manhattan residents concerned about possible WTC-
related dust in their residential areas participate in the 2002-3 EPA
voluntary cleaning/sampling program.
EPA, acting in concert with NYC, implemented these recommendations.
Our evaluation of the program results are included in the response to
Senator Inhofe: ``No pattern that could be related to the WTC collapse
was detectable in this area of lower Manhattan. It appears that
cleaning efforts by residents, building owners and operators, EPA, and
NYC, where applied, have been successful in reducing levels of
contamination.'' This conclusion is consistent with the initial
findings of NYCDOHMH and ATSDR.
Question 9. CEQ's testimony stated that: ``We had a particular
focus on the workers, who faced extreme danger in the conditions during
the recovery and rescue work. We had a second focus on the people who
were acutely exposed to the volume of dust immediately after the
collapse, and that really was in the hands of the public health
professionals. EPA was instrumental in encouraging people to go seek
medical help and monitoring.''
Based on the Administration's position, why then were there no
statements issued to public health professionals advising them to be
cognitive of acute exposure symptoms and potential long-term health
impacts of exposure to WTC debris and materials? Have you integrated
into your future communication plan safeguards to ensure that the
medical community and health care system are properly informed?
Response. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) did issue statements to public health professionals advising
them to be aware of potential impacts from exposure to WTC debris and
material. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences also
worked to provide information to health professionals. While the two
Institutes are better able to fully detail their actions, each has
posted explanatory information on their websites. Information on
efforts by NIOSH can be found on the NIOSH website at: http://
www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/wtc/ and at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/02-
143.html. Information on efforts by NIEHS can be found at: http://
EPA will defer to the Department of Health and Human Services
(DHHS) on statements issued on public health and to public health
professionals in general. However, as stated in reply to Question 3,
EPA's Crisis Communication Plan outlines responsibilities and
procedures to ensure the public receives the most accurate information
in a timely manner. EPA's communication plan does make it clear that
the review environmental data (which is closely linked to health
effects) will be coordinated with appropriate affected agencies. As EPA
develops the companion resources guide, EPA will coordinate with
agencies such as the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
(ATSDR). During the response to Hurricane Katrina, EPA worked closely
with DHHS, ATSDR and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding
the communication of environmental data. As mentioned above, we also
stand ready to continue this interagency coordination on risk
communication with DHS and other appropriate agencies to assure
necessary community outreach.
Question 10a. EPA's draft document, ``Exposure and Human Health
Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center
Disaster'', was released for comment and brought to the attention of
the press by the Agency during the last week of 2002, generating a 12/
28 NYT article headlined: ``No Serious Risks for Public Near Ground
Zero, E.P.A. Reports''. The draft document underwent peer review at a
two day meeting, held in NYC and hosted by Versar, Inc., on July 14-15,
2003. The peer review report, ``Summary Report of the U.S. EPA
Technical Peer Meeting on the Draft Document Entitled: Exposure and
Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade
Center Disaster'', was finalized in December of 2003. Though the
product of an external peer review panel is a public document, the
conclusions and recommendations of the peer reviewers were so
antithetical to EPA's purposes that the Agency sought to suppress the
report. Only with the assistance of the OIG, was I able to secure its
In December 2005, New Yorkers queried EPA regarding the status of
the report and learned that it had been revised, and that the revised
draft had been submitted to the July 2003 peer review panel for a
letter review in the summer of 2005 under the title, ``An Inhalation
Exposure and Risk Assessment of Ambient Air Pollution from the World
Trade Center Disaster'' An EPA email response to this query in December
of 2005 stated that EPA was in the process of preparing the report for
public release in January or February 2006. However, requests for
revised drafts of this document and other information about the process
have been unanswered. Please provide the following documents and
The revised version of the external review draft, ``Exposure and
Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade
Center Disaster'', that was submitted for peer review in 2005, under
the title, ``An Inhalation Exposure and Risk Assessment of Ambient Air
Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster'', or under its original
title, or under another title:
The name of the contractor that managed the 2005 peer review for
Response. Versar, Inc., 6850 Versar Center, Springfield, VA 22151.
Question 10b. The names of the peer reviewers who participated in
the 2005 peer review.
Response. Michael Dourson, Ph.D., DABT, Toxicology Excellence for
Risk Assessment (TERA), Cincinnati, OH 45211; Alison Geyh, Ph.D., Johns
Hopkins University School of Public Health, Department of Environmental
Health Sciences, Baltimore, MD 21205; Patrick L. Kinney, Sc.D., Mailman
School of Public Health at Columbia University, Department of
Environmental Health Sciences, New York, NY 10032; John R. Kominsky,
M.Sc., CIH, CSP, CHMM, ROH, Environmental Quality Management, Inc.,
Cincinnati, Ohio 45240; Margaret MacDonell, Ph.D., Argonne National
Laboratory, Argonne, IL 60439; Bertram Price, Ph.D., Price Associates,
Inc., White Plains, NY 10601; Clifford P. Weisel, Ph.D., Environmental
& Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI)/UMDNJ, Department of
Environmental Medicine, Piscataway, NJ 08854.
Question 10c. All work products completed by peer reviewers for the
2005 peer review and communicated back to EPA.
Response. The peer reviewers did not provide any products to EPA
directly. They were hired by Versar and provided their review comments
back to Versar. Versar provided EPA with a report titled, ``Support for
the External Re-Review of the NCEA Report Exposure and Human Health
Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster''
dated October 11, 2005. That report contained a brief synopsis by
Versar of the overall reviewer response to each of the charge
questions, followed by the unedited reviews supplied by each reviewer.
Question 10d. The charge questions provided to peer reviewers, the
list of background documents, and the record of clarifying questions
from peer reviewers and EPA's responses to those questions.
Do you agree that these were important changes to have been made to
the document? Do you have any comments on these new additions/changes?
Would you recommend further major changes?
Response. (a) Two new primary conclusions were added, bringing the
total to five major assessment conclusions. The original three
conclusions remain substantially the same, with some word changes.
Please reread those and provide any fresh insights or comments, if
appropriate. The new conclusions address the fact that health effects
research has indicated that WTC-related respiratory and reproductive
health effects have been observed in the general population. The new
Respiratory impacts, such as exacerbated asthma and ``World Trade
Center Cough'', have been observed in residents and other individuals
living and working on the perimeter of Ground Zero, and these impacts
have persisted in some individuals to the current time. As in this
assessment, researchers studying the respiratory impacts have
hypothesized that these effects resulted from inhalation exposures
which occurred near Ground Zero, and very near September 11 in time
when concentrations of critical respiratory contaminants (particulate
matter, synthetic vitreous fibers, asbestos, and others) were thought
to be substantially elevated over typical background levels in air.
In addition to respiratory effects, reproductive effects were
observed in two studies. In both studies, the cohorts were selected
based on being near Ground Zero on September 11, but also who lived and
worked in the area for weeks to months afterwards. Thus, both outdoor
and indoor exposures may have contributed to the observed effects. In
one study, the reproductive effect of intrauterine growth restriction
resulting in small for gestational age babies was observed. In the
second study, a small but significant reduction in gestation and birth
weight was observed. Although attribution is not certain, the
researchers concluded that the observed reproductive effects suggest an
impact of pollutants (PAHs and particulates) and/or stress related to
the WTC disaster.
(b) The monitoring chapter was greatly expanded to provide a more
complete overview of the monitoring activities and the monitoring data
available for analysis in this report.
(c) A new section on Health Risk Uncertainty, including the latest
findings on observed health effects has been added to Chapter 2.
Exposure Assessment and Risk Characterization Approach, and to the
(d) A new table outlining the health or regulatory basis for all
benchmarks used in this assessment is now included as Table 2.2.
(e) New contaminant assessments have been included on synthetic
vitreous fibers (SVFs), PAHs, and silica.
(f) A new cancer risk assessment on asbestos has been added.
(g) All contaminant monitoring summaries were updated to include
all final data (the original assessment included data only through
March or April of 2002; most monitoring activities were discontinued in
the summer of 2002). As well, summaries of monitoring for all metals
and all volatile organic contaminants were added, even though only a
limited number of them were assessed.
(h) A new section in Chapter 5. Comment on the First Several Days
After September 11, has been added. This section details the day-by-day
monitoring activities which occurred between September 11 and September
(i) The original Chapter 6. Data on Occupational and Indoor
Exposures, has been deleted.
(j) A new appendix, Appendix B. Compilation of World Trade Center
Studies on Environmental Impacts, Human Exposures, and Health Impacts,
has been added to the document. (2) The panel also made recommendations
that were not followed for this version of the assessment.
Specifically, the panel recommended that existing health benchmarks,
developed for a different purpose such as occupational exposure, be
adjusted so that they are more appropriate for the exposure patterns
that might be relevant to the target population of this assessment, the
general public living and working near Ground Zero. EPA had decided
that this assessment was not the appropriate forum to be developing new
benchmarks. Also, the panel advocated addressing cumulative or
aggregate effects of multiple chemical/multiple pathway exposures, to
the extent possible and practical. EPA identified the lack of
cumulative/aggregate exposure assessment as a major uncertainty for
this assessment, but felt that both the WTC data and the procedures for
cumulative/aggregate assessment were not sufficiently developed for
this assessment. Does the panel agree with these decisions?
(3) Is the panel aware of any new data or studies that would
benefit this assessment?
(4) Does the panel have any additional comments they wish to make
after seeing this assessment a second time, given the years between
reviews and the information and insights that have come out of the WTC
List of background documents
1. The current version of the report
2. The December 2002 version of the report
3. A draft response-to-comments document prepared by EPA which
includes responses to the comments made by the July 2003 external
review panel as well as responses to comments provided by the public
following the December 2002 release of the report.
4. A letter from EPA (developed by EPA and supplied to the
contractor prior to the initiation of the review) which contains
general information about the revised report and any specific re-review
directions or charges.
Clarifying questions and responses
The review was conducted by Versar. If the reviewers had any
questions, they supplied them to Versar and Versar was responsible for
answering the question. If Versar did not have an adequate answer, they
would ask EPA for assistance in answering the question. No assistance
was asked of EPA, so if there were any clarifying questions posed by
the reviewers to Versar, EPA is not aware of them.
Question 10e. The status of the final report.
Response. Based on the review, EPA prepared a final report and a
response-to-comments document which included responses to: public
comments supplied after the release of the December, 2002 draft
document, comments provided by the July 2003 external review panel, and
comments provided by the letter re-review of 2005. During an internal
Office of Research and Development review of 2006, it was decided that
the final report would be most useful if it were prepared as a journal
article that would be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for
publication. That article was developed during the summer/fall of 2006
and reviewed internally by the Office of Research of Development. The
manuscript was titled, ``Assessment of Inhalation Exposures and
Potential Health Risks to the General Population that Resulted from the
Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers'', and was submitted to the
journal, Risk Analysis, in December of 2006. As of July, 2007, the
journal has not made a final decision to accept or reject the
manuscript for publication.
Question 11. ``Presidential Decision Directive-62 (PDD-62),
``Protection Against Unconventional Threats to the Homeland and
Americans Overseas,'' dated May 22, 1998, puts EPA in charge of
building decontamination after terrorist attacks. Why did EPA ignore
this directive after 9-11?''
Response. EPA has carefully reviewed this classified document and
did not find any reference to EPA being in charge of building
decontamination after terrorist attacks. EPA's responsibility, per this
document, is to participate with the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) in responding to such an event. EPA did work closely with
FEMA and other appropriate State and Federal agencies in responding to
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Senator Clinton. Thank you very much, Ms. Bodine.
STATEMENT OF SVEN RODENBECK, SC.D., P.E., BCEE CAPTAIN, U.S.
PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, DEPUTY BRANCH CHIEF, AGENCY FOR TOXIC
SUBSTANCES AND DISEASE REGISTRY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND
Captain Rodenbeck. Yes, good morning, Madam Chairperson,
members of the subcommittee and my fellow panel members. My
name is Captain Sven Rodenbeck. I am a U.S. Public Health
Service Commissioned Officer with the Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Some of my
responsibilities while stationed at ATSDR have been evaluating
the public health impacts over 90 Superfund hazardous waste
sites and leading various high profile agency responses to
environmental health emergencies, including the World Trade
Center and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita responses.
I am here today to provide you and the Subcommittee with a
briefing of ATSDR's support that was provided to the New York
City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; our participation
on multiple World Trade Center task forces; and our efforts to
strengthen environmental health sciences and responses to
First, however, I would like to take this opportunity to
remember all those that we lost on 9/11 and their families who
continue to remember them and love them in their memories. I
would also like to acknowledge the sacrifices that the
countless responders and volunteers made on that day, some of
whom are still suffering. I know I will always remember them.
During the World Trade Center recovery efforts, ATSDR
provided direct support to the New York City Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene. Our biggest contribution was the
implementation of a pilot residential sampling program. The
objective of that pilot program was to sample a small number of
residential units to determine what the indoor and immediately
surrounding outdoor environment had as far as residue dust.
The sampling occurred from November 4 through December 11,
2001. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
and ATSDR released preliminary sampling results on February 8,
2002, and provided the final report on October 4, 2002. Our
primary finding of the pilot investigation was that levels of
materials detected in the air and dust did not pose potential
health hazards, provided that recommended cleaning measures
ATSDR also participated on several World Trade Center-
related task forces. From February 2002 through the summer
2003, we supported the EPA Task Force on Indoor Air in Lower
Manhattan. This task force provided technical consultation to
EPA Region 2 on several projects, including the initial EPA
voluntary cleaning and sampling of residential areas, the
cleaning demonstration project and the selection of World Trade
Center Chemicals of Potential Concern. ATSDR also participated
on the 2004-2005 EPA Expert Technical Review Panel.
To help strengthen the environmental health sciences, ATSDR
published the 2002 Toxicological Profile for Synthetic Vitreous
Fibers, also known as man-made vitreous fibers. We also
convened an expert panel to gain a greater understanding of the
toxicity of asbestos and man-made vitreous fibers, particularly
the fibers that are sometime called short fibers, those that
are less than 5 microns in length.
ATSDR's involvement on these various multi-agency World
Trade Center task forces has served as a template for our
responses to future environmental disasters. The early
establishment of these types of task forces can improve the
development and implementation of responses to the complex
issues that arise from environmental disasters. An example of
how this can be done is the 2005 CDC/ATSDR and EPA
Environmental Health Needs and Habitability Assessment Task
Force, which provided the State of Louisiana and the city of
New Orleans with a rapid scientific evaluation of the
overarching environmental health issues that needed to be done
before the city could be reoccupied.
ATSDR also participated on the multi-agency task force that
evaluated whether the storm surge from Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita caused widespread sediment or soil contamination in the
New Orleans area.
Madam Chairperson, this concludes my testimony. I would be
more than happy to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Captain Rodenbeck follows:]
Statement of Sven E. Rodenbeck, Sc.D., P.E., BCEE, Captain, U.S. Public
Health Service, Deputy Branch Chief, Agency for Toxic Substances and
Disease Registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Good morning Madam Chairperson and Members of the Subcommittee. My
name is Captain Sven Rodenbeck, Deputy Branch Chief within the Agency
for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). I have been a U.S.
Public Health Service Commissioned Officer for over 28 years. Since
September 1987, I have been stationed at ATSDR performing various
technical and managerial assignments. These assignments have included
evaluating the public health impacts of over 90 Superfund hazardous
waste sites, co-authoring the 1990 ATSDR The Public Health Implications
of Medical Waste: A Report To Congress, and leading various high
profile agency responses to environmental health emergencies including
the ATSDR World Trade Center (WTC) (September 2001 through April 2003)
and the Hurricane Katrina/Rita (September 2005 through July 2006)
environmental monitoring and public health assessment activities. In
addition, from March 2004 through December 2005, I represented ATSDR on
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) WTC Expert Technical
Review Panel. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental
Engineering from the University of Central Florida (1978), Master of
Science degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of
Maryland (1983), and Doctor of Science degree in Environmental Health
(with emphasis in epidemiology, toxicology, and risk assessment) from
the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
(1997). I am a registered professional engineer in the states of
Florida and Maryland and a Board Certified Environmental Engineering. I
have authored or coauthored numerous peer-reviewed publications and a
book chapter on solid and hazardous waste.
I am here today to provide you and the Subcommittee with a briefing
of ATSDR's WTC environmental monitoring involvement. I will
specifically discuss: (1) ATSDR's support provided to New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), (2) ATSDR's
participation on multi-agency WTC Task Forces, and (3) ATSDR's efforts
to strengthen environmental health sciences and responses to
Almost immediately after the planes crashed into the World Trade
Center Towers, ATSDR implemented its emergency response procedures.
From September 16-26, 2001, an ATSDR technical staff person traveled to
the EPA Region II Edison, New Jersey, Office to assure reliable
communications between EPA Region II and ATSDR.
On September 26, 2001, NYC DOHMH requested that ATSDR provide on-
site technical support to interpret the environmental monitoring data
collected, assist with developing public health informational/
educational material, and assist in providing technical information to
the New York City public during public meetings. The on-site technical
support to NYC DOHMH continued through June 28, 2002. In addition,
ATSDR headquarters provided technical support which included the
plotting and generation of geographic information system (GIS) maps and
development of draft fact sheets that discussed asbestos, our pilot
residential sampling investigation, and particulate matter (PM). NYC
DOHMH and the deployed ATSDR staff used these technical materials to
prepare for the various community meetings.
NYC DOHMH/ATSDR PILOT RESIDENTIAL AREA INVESTIGATION
ATSDR supported NYC DOHMH by implementing the Ambient and Indoor
Sampling for Public Health Evaluations of Residential Areas Near the
World Trade Center. Additional support was provided by the U.S. Federal
Emergency Management Agency, EPA, the U.S. Public Health Service
Commissioned Corps, and state and local environmental and health
agencies. The objective was to conduct environmental sampling that
characterized ambient and indoor airborne surface dust in a small
number of residential areas of lower Manhattan. Sampling of residential
units occurred from November 4 through December 11, 2001. NYC DOHMH and
ATSDR released preliminary sampling results on February 8, 2002 and
provided the final report for this investigation to the public on
October 4, 2002. The primary finding of the pilot investigation was
that the levels of materials detected in the air and dust did not pose
potential health hazard provided that recommended cleaning measures
were followed. Some of the other finding included:
Low levels of asbestos were found in some settled surface
dust, primarily below Chambers Street.
The lower Manhattan residential areas had higher
percentages of manmade vitreous fibers (MMVF), mineral components of
concrete, and mineral components of building wallboard in settled
surface dust than the comparison area.
Lower Manhattan airborne levels of total fibers were no
different than the levels detected in the four buildings above 59th
Street, which served as the comparison area.
Mineral components of concrete and mineral components of
building wall board were detected in air samples at higher levels in
lower Manhattan residential areas than in the comparison area.
Based upon the findings, NYC DOHMH and ATSDR recommended:
Additional monitoring of residential areas be conducted in
Additional investigation be conducted to define background
levels specific to the city of New York, and
Lower Manhattan residents concerned about possible WTC-
related dust in their residential areas participate in the 2002-3 EPA
voluntary cleaning/sampling program.
ATSDR SUPPORT TO MULTI-AGENCY WTC RELATED TASK FORCES
ATSDR has participated on several WTC related task forces. ATSDR
supported the EPA Task Force on Indoor Air in Lower Manhattan; which
began in February 2002. This Task Force provided technical consultation
to EPA Region II on how best EPA Region II should respond to the indoor
air issues related to the collapse of the WTC towers. In addition to
the 2002-3 EPA voluntary cleaning/sampling of residential area, The
Task Force on Indoor Air in Lower Manhattan provided technical advice
EPA sampling investigation to define better the typical
New York City background levels of various WTC related materials (e.g.,
asbestos, MMVF, and crystalline silica);
EPA demonstration project that evaluated the various
cleaning techniques that could be used to remove WTC related materials
from residential areas (e.g., HEPA vacuum); and
EPA selection of chemicals of potential concern (COPC) to
be addressed in indoor areas and development of air and surface
screening values to employ as samples were collected.
The EPA Task Force on Indoor Air in Lower Manhattan completed its
efforts in the summer of 2003.
ATSDR was also an active member of the New York City Lower
Manhattan Air Task Force. The Mayor charged the task force to
coordinate the response of the city agencies and to establish a
complaint and information phone line to address WTC environmental
issues. The City Task was active from March to June 2002.
ATSDR also participated on EPA's 2004-5 WTC Expert Technical Review
Panel. The purpose of that panel was to help guide EPA on how to
determine whether any remaining WTC-related dust could be in lower
Manhattan or other areas at levels of public health concern. As a
member of the panel, ATSDR provided various technical guidance some of
which is documented in the March 2005 ATSDR Health Consultation, Review
of the Proposed Sampling Program to Determine Extent of World Trace
Center Impacts to the Indoor Environment.
STRENGTHENING ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES AND RESPONSES TO
One science issue that ATSDR identified from its WTC experience was
the need to further understand the health risks from exposure to MMVF,
known also as synthetic vitreous fibers. To address this, ATSDR
developed a ``white paper'' and the 2002 Toxicological Profile for
Synthetic Vitreous Fibers. To obtain a better understanding of the
health risks associated with asbestos and MMVF fibers less than 5
microns in length (sometimes called ``short fibers''), ATSDR convened
an expert panel. The panel met in New York City on October 29 and 30,
2002. The discussions, findings, and recommendations of the panelists
are presented in the 2003 ATSDR Report on the Expert Panel on Health
Effects of Asbestos and Synthetic Vitreous Fibers: The Influence of
ATSDR's involvement on the various multi-agency WTC task forces has
served as a template for our responses to other environmental
disasters. The early establishment of multi-agency task forces can
improve the development and implementation of comprehensive solutions
to the complex environmental problems that are associated with
disasters. For example, the 2005 Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and EPA Environmental Health Needs and Habitability
Assessment Joint Task Force provided the State of Louisiana and the
City of New Orleans with a rapid scientific evaluation of the
overarching environmental health issues that needed to be addressed
before the city could be reinhabited. ATSDR also participated on the
multi-agency task force that evaluated whether the storm surges from
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had caused wide-spread sediment or soil
contamination of the New Orleans area.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to remember all
of those lost as a result of the events of September 11, 2001, and
their families and friends who will love them forever and keep their
memories alive. And I would like to gratefully recognize the countless
responders and volunteers, some of whom are still dealing with what
happened on that fateful day and shortly thereafter. I know that I will
Madam Chairperson, this concludes my testimony. I would be happy to
answer any questions.
Responses by Sven E. Rodenbeck to Additional Questions
from Senator Inhofe
Question 1. Please describe your role on the World Trade Center
(WTC) expert panel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Response. I participated on the EPA WTC Expert Technical Review
Panel from March 2004 through December 2005. As a panel member, I
reviewed all of the WTC-related environmental sampling results, the
various scientific articles that have been published concerning WTC,
and the various documents and sampling proposals developed by EPA.
Based upon that information, I provided verbal and written comments and
recommendations concerning the various issues being evaluated by the
Question 2. Although members of the panel has expressed
disappointment over not identifying a dust signature, do you believe
that the current testing and cleaning program is a step in the right
direction and can you address the problems encountered in the peer-
reviewed process to develop a targeted signature dust?
Response. The Current EPA Testing and Cleaning Program.--The
testing and cleaning program currently being conducted by EPA in lower
Manhattan provides the public with an opportunity to have their living
spaces tested for WTC chemicals of potential concern. If the WTC
chemicals of potential concern are found above the thresholds
established by EPA and can not be attributed to other sources via a
survey, then EPA will clean the space. To that end, the program should
provide a level of assurance to the people participating in this
program that their living areas do not contain any of those particular
chemicals at levels of health concern.
Developing a World Trade Center Dust Signature.--The panel and EPA
focused a great deal of time and effort on trying to determine whether
there was a specific pattern or signature that could differentiate
between WTC and normal background dust. The development of a WTC dust
signature was critical to addressing the main charge given the Panel.
Without a signature, one cannot answer the basic questions that the
public and policy leaders are asking:
Is there any remaining WTC dust located in indoor areas?
Is the WTC dust in the indoor areas at levels of health
What is the current extent of WTC dust inside buildings in
lower Manhattan and elsewhere?
This was a very technically challenging charge to the Panel,
particularly given the facts that the most of WTC-related dust
constituents/chemicals can be found in typical/ordinary indoor dust, a
vast majority of buildings surrounding WTC had already been cleaned to
varying degrees, and so much time had passed since the collapse of the
These discussions and activities led to the development of a new
laboratory procedure that could potentially identify a specific type of
manmade vitreous fibers (MMVF) found in WTC dust. It was hoped that the
MMVF could be used as a WTC signature. But this signature turned out to
be an imperfect fit because the specific type of MMVF that was being
considered was also used in other buildings as insulation and sound
reduction material and can be found at varying levels in normal
background dust. Use of this signature would likely lead to a high
false positive identification, that is, a significant number of indoor
areas being identified as containing WTC dust when they, in fact, did
not. This could bring into question the scientific reliability of any
sampling/cleaning program that is based on that particular MMVF
In addition, there were Panel discussions as to whether
laboratories can consistently identify MMVF using the new laboratory
procedure developed specifically for WTC. EPA conducted a pilot test in
which a number of commercial laboratories were asked to use the new
procedure. Unfortunately, the commercial laboratories could not
consistently identify the specific MMVF when provided identical samples
using the new procedure.
Question 3. Please describe the air monitoring Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted with the New York
City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) following the
WTC disaster, Can you further describe the work between EPA and ATSDR
to identify contaminants of concern for the residential cleaning
program initiated in 2002 and since?
Response. NYC DOHMH/ATSDR Limited Residential Area Sampling Near
the World Trade Center. A complete description, along with the sampling
results and interpretation, of the limited air and dust monitoring
ATSDR conducted with NYC DOHMH can be found at:
The following is a brief description of this limited sampling
From November 4 through December 11, 2001, environmental samples
were collected in and around 30 residential buildings in lower
Manhattan. In addition, four buildings above 59th Street were sampled
and used as a comparison area for this limited investigation. The
purpose of the sampling was to assess the composition of both outdoor
and indoor settled surface and airborne dust within a limited number of
residential areas around WTC This information was used to help
determine whether additional public health actions were needed to
address any remaining WTC-related dust inside residential areas.
Attention was given to those materials reasonably expected to be in
the original dust cloud and in dust generated by ongoing activities at
WTC. Efforts were made to obtain as much information as possible with
the sampling that could be conducted, given accessibility and equipment
limitations. Air and settled surface dust samples were collected and
analyzed for the following materials used in WTC construction
components: asbestos, MMVF, crystalline silica, calcite, portlandite,
gypsum, mica, and halite.
Results from this investigation did not necessarily reflect
conditions that would be found in other buildings, at other times
immediately following the collapse, or after the sampling period. The
measurements reflect conditions present at the time of the sampling
(November 4-December 12, 2001) in the buildings and areas sampled. The
limited number of results obtained from the comparison areas above 59th
Street was an attempt to determine the New York City-specific
background levels of asbestos, MMVF, mineral components of concrete
(quartz, calcite, and portlandite), and mineral components of building
wallboard (gypsum, mica, and halite).
Identifying World Trade Center Contaminants of Potential Concern.--
On February 2, 2002, EPA Region II formed the Task Force on Indoor Air
in Lower Manhattan. The ATSDR WTC Response Team was specifically asked
to participate on this Task Force. The Task Force and its associated
Working Groups were responsible for providing technical consultation to
EPA Region II on how best EPA Region II should respond to the indoor
air issues related to the collapse of the WTC towers.
One of the Task Force Working Groups was specifically charged with
establishing health-based benchmarks for the WTC contaminants of
potential concern. ATSDR technical staff worked collaboratively with
EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, New York State
Department of Health, and NYC DOHMH technical staff in developing the
benchmarks. The process began with the review of an extremely large
environmental data set, including indoor and outdoor air and dust data.
This was followed by a two-level screening which considered individual
contaminant toxicity, the prevalence of a contaminant within and across
media, and the likelihood that a detected contaminant was related to
the WTC disaster. The goal of the process was to identify those
contaminants most likely to be present within indoor environments at
levels of health concern.
Once the Working Group members had narrowed the contaminants to
those that were thought to be related to the WTC, health-based
benchmarks were developed to be protective of long-term habitability of
residential dwellings. The following hierarchal approach was employed
for developing benchmark values: use of relevant and appropriate
environmental standards/regulations; calculation of health-based
benchmarks employing environmental risk assessment guidance, and
adaptation of occupational standards with additional safety factors.
The final document developed by the Working Group, after an
external peer review, can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/wtc/copc--
Senator Clinton. Thank you very much, Captain.
STATEMENT OF JOHN B. STEPHENSON, DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCES
AND ENVIRONMENT, U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE
Mr. Stephenson. Madam Chairman and members of the
subcommittee, I am here today to discuss GAO's ongoing review
of EPA's second program to address indoor contamination from
the World Trade Center. Our full report will be issued in
September to you.
As you know, the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center
nearly 6 years ago turned lower Manhattan into a disastrous
site on a scale the Nation had never experienced. As the Towers
collapsed, lower Manhattan was blanketed in a mixture of
building debris and combustible materials that coated building
exteriors and streets, as well as the interiors of apartments
and offices, exposing thousands of residents and workers to
hazards in the air and in the dust, such as asbestos, lead,
glass fibers and pulverized concrete.
To put EPA's efforts into perspective, Figure 1 in my
statement, you should all have a copy of this, contains a time
line of EPA activity since 9/11. On the day of the attacks, the
President signed a major disaster declaration, which activated
the Federal Government's assistance to State and local
agencies. In May 2002, after numerous cleanups, dust collection
and air monitoring activities were conducted outdoors, New York
City formally requested Federal assistance to test and clean
indoor space and residences and common areas. As shown, EPA
implemented the first program to test and clean indoor space
about 1 year after the disaster. Residents of lower Manhattan
living south of Canal Street, about 20,000 apartments, were
eligible to participate in the program, and about 20 percent,
or 4,100 apartments, did so.
However, EPA's first program was severely criticized. In
August 2003, as has been mentioned, the EPA's Inspector General
complained that the cleanup did not require that entire
buildings be systematically cleaned, including HVAC systems,
and concluded that the contaminants in uncleaned apartments and
common areas could enter the air supply system and
recontaminate clean spaces.
In March 2004, EPA convened an expert technical review
panel to address IG and public concerns about EPA's program.
The panel met periodically over 18 months through December
2005. EPA announced its second program to address indoor
contamination in December 2006, over 3 years after completion
of the first program. Only 295 of the over 20,000 eligible home
and building owners have enrolled, compared to about 4,100 the
Madam Chairman, you asked GAO to evaluate EPA's second test
and clean program to determine, No. 1, the extent to which EPA
implemented recommendations from the IG, the expert panel and
others; No. 2, to determine the completeness of information EPA
provided to the public about indoor contamination; and No. 3,
to determine how EPA determined that $7 million was the
appropriate amount to carry out the program.
In summary, we found that EPA incorporated some
recommendations into its second indoor air program, but its
decision not to adopt others has limited, in our view, the
overall effectiveness of the program. EPA did implement
recommendations to expand the number of contaminants tested
beyond asbestos and did agree to test in dust as well as air.
However, it did not incorporate recommendations to expand the
boundaries of cleanup beyond Canal Street. EPA reasoned that it
would need to identify a World Trade Center signature, that is,
a method for differentiating between normal urban dust and
World Trade Center dust to justify expanding the program.
EPA was ultimately never able to identify such a signature
in part because it waited nearly 3 years to attempt to do so.
EPA also did not incorporate recommendations to sample in HVACs
or inaccessible locations within apartments and common areas,
such as behind dishwashers, citing resource constraints. EPA
also did not incorporate recommendations to expand the program
to include workplaces, stating that worker safety is the
responsibility of other agencies.
We also found that EPA did not provide sufficient
information to allow the public to make informed choices about
the extent of contamination and ultimately their participation
in the indoor program. For example, EPA publicly reported that
a very small number of samples from its first program exceeded
risk levels of airborne asbestos. However, it did not
adequately explain that this conclusion was based on the fact
that most testing was done after cleaning rather than before
cleaning. This may have given residents a false sense of
security and contributed to the low participation in the second
Finally, we found no basis for the $7 million EPA
identified to implement its second program. It was simply the
money left over from the first test and clean program, and it
is less than 20 percent of the first program's funding. EPA
chose to limit the scope of the second program to fit within
these available resources, rather than design a comprehensive
program and then estimate the resources needed to carry it out.
EPA told us that if the demand had exceeded available
resources, it would have limited participation in the program,
rather than request additional resources.
Madam Chairman, that concludes my summary and I will be
happy to answer questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Stephenson follows:]
Statement of John B. Stephenson, Director, Natural Resources and
Environment, U.S. Government Accountability Office
Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss the preliminary results of
our ongoing work on the development of the Environmental Protection
Agency's (EPA) second program to address World Trade Center (WTC)
indoor contamination. As you know, the September 11, 2001, terrorist
attack on the World Trade Center turned Lower Manhattan into a disaster
site, on a scale the nation had never experienced. The World Trade
Center was a complex of seven buildings on 16 acres surrounding a 5-
acre plaza in Lower Manhattan. The twin towers were at the center of
the complex. Each tower had 110 floors, with approximately 43,200
square feet on each floor. As the towers collapsed, Lower Manhattan was
blanketed in a mixture of building debris and combustible materials
that coated building exteriors and streets, as well as the interiors of
apartments and offices. This complex mixture gave rise to another major
concern: that thousands of residents and workers in the area would now
be exposed to known hazards in the air and in the dust, such as
asbestos, lead, glass fibers, and pulverized concrete.
On the day of the attacks, the President signed a major disaster
declaration, which activated the Federal Response Plan. The Federal
Response Plan, now replaced by the National Response Plan, established
the process and structure for the federal government's assistance to
state and local agencies when responding to any major disaster or
emergency declared under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and
Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act).\1\ In May 2002, after numerous
cleanup, dust collection, and air monitoring activities were conducted
outdoors by EPA, other federal agencies, New York City and New York
State, New York City formally requested federal assistance to clean
and/or test residences in the vicinity of the WTC site for airborne
\1\ 42 U.S.C. Sec. 5121, et seq. The purpose of the Stafford Act is
``to provide an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the
Federal Government to State and local governments in carrying out their
responsibilities to alleviate the suffering and damage which result
from such disasters.'' 42 U.S.C. Sec. 5121(b).
\2\ In addition to using asbestos as a trigger for cleanup, in a
small subset of residences, EPA conducted sampling for dioxin, mercury,
and 22 metals to inform a study about the effectiveness of its cleaning
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administered
the Federal Response Plan, provided such assistance, entering into
interagency agreements with EPA in 2002 to develop EPA's first program.
This program allowed residents of Lower Manhattan living south of Canal
Street (representing over 20,000 residences) to elect to have their
home professionally cleaned, followed by testing, or to have their home
tested only. Approximately 20 percent of the eligible residences
participated in the program. The majority of these residences were
professionally cleaned before they were sampled for asbestos because
their owners selected the clean and test option rather than the test
only option.\3\ Even though samples were collected after cleaning in
most cases, some residences (less than 1 percent) were still found to
have unsafe levels of asbestos.
\3\ EPA regional officials overseeing the program told us they
assumed that some residents elected to have testing only because they
had their residences cleaned before EPA's program.
EPA's first program was criticized by several entities; as a
result, EPA developed a second program, which is the focus of our
ongoing work and our testimony today.\4\ Let me provide some
information on the events leading up to the second program.
\4\ A lawsuit was filed in March 2004 that, among other things,
challenged the adequacy of EPA's first test and clean program. The case
is on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Benzman v. Whitman, No. 04-1888 (S.D.N.Y. filed March 10, 2004), appeal
docketed, Nos. 06-1166-cv, 06-1346-cv, 06-1454-cv (2nd Cir. March 10,
2006). Pursuant to its long-standing policy of not addressing issues in
ongoing litigation, GAO has not addressed EPA's first test and clean
In August 2003, EPA's Inspector General made recommendations that
addressed EPA's initial efforts to clean up indoor contamination
following the towers' collapse, as well as recommendations that focused
on EPA's future preparedness for large-scale disasters resulting in
indoor contamination. The Inspector General reported that the effort to
clean up indoor WTC contamination was inadequate for multiple reasons.
For example, according to the Inspector General, the WTC cleanup did
not require that entire buildings be systematically cleaned, including
heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. As a result,
the Inspector General concluded, the contaminants in uncleaned
apartments and common areas could enter the air supply system and re-
contaminate cleaned spaces. With regard to future preparedness, the
Inspector General recommended, among other things, that EPA develop
protocols for determining how indoor environmental contamination would
be handled in the event of a future disaster.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) indicated in
October 2003 that EPA would organize and lead an expert technical
review panel to address the concerns of the Inspector General and
others. In March 2004, EPA convened the WTC Expert Technical Review
Panel, which met periodically through December 2005. The panel was
composed of 20 individuals from academia and from city and federal
health and science agencies, such as the Department of Labor's
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS). It also included two
representatives from the Community-Labor Coalition (CLC), which is a
network of community, tenant, labor, and environmental organizations
formed after September 11, 2001, to advocate for appropriate health and
safety efforts in the recovery from the WTC attack. The panel's overall
task, as outlined by CEQ, was to advise EPA on efforts to protect New
York City residents and workers potentially affected by the collapse of
the World Trade Center. Specifically, the panel's goals were to help
guide EPA in (1) identifying any remaining risks using exposure and
health surveillance information; (2) identifying any unmet public
health needs; and (3) determining steps to further minimize the risks.
In addition, the panel was asked to provide advice for EPA's second
program. Panel members, including the CLC representatives, submitted
individual recommendations to EPA.
After obtaining the views of advisory groups, including the
Inspector General, the expert panel, and the CLC, EPA announced its
plan for a second program in December 2006. This 2006 plan targets
residents and building owners in the same portion of Lower Manhattan as
EPA's first program. In the 2006 plan, EPA also provided the results of
the sampling from its first program. The second program is set to begin
later in 2007. As of May 10, 2007, EPA told us, 295 residents and
building owners had enrolled in the second program, compared with 4,166
eligible participants in the first program. Figure 1 shows the
chronology of events preceding the second program.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T1970.045
Our testimony, which is based on our ongoing work evaluating EPA's
development of its second program, discusses (1) EPA's actions to
implement recommendations from the expert panel and its Inspector
General, (2) the completeness of information EPA provided to the public
in its second plan, and
(3) EPA's assessment of available resources to conduct the program.
In summary, while we found that EPA has taken some actions to
incorporate recommendations from the Inspector General and expert panel
members into its second program, it decided not to incorporate other
recommendations, which may limit the program's overall effectiveness.
For example, EPA's second program incorporates recommendations to
expand the number of contaminants tested, from asbestos only, to three
additional contaminants and to test in dust as well as in the air.
However, EPA's program does not incorporate a recommendation to expand
the boundaries of cleanup to north of Canal Street and to Brooklyn. EPA
reported that it was unable to develop a method for distinguishing
between normal urban dust and WTC dust; therefore, the agency reported
that it cannot assess the extent of WTC contamination, and has no basis
for expanding the cleanup effort. EPA did not begin examining methods
for differentiating between normal urban dust and WTC dust until May
2004--nearly 3 years after the disaster--and therefore the process for
differentiating was more difficult. In addition, EPA's second program
does not incorporate recommendations to sample in HVACs or
``inaccessible'' locations within apartments and common areas, such as
behind dishwashers. The agency chose to offer more limited testing in a
greater number of apartments and common areas rather than to provide
more comprehensive testing (such as in HVACs) in a smaller number of
these areas. Testing in such a restricted manner make evaluating the
adequacy of clean up efforts very difficult, and may discourage
participation. Moreover, this program does not incorporate the
recommendation to test workplaces because, according to EPA officials,
other federal agencies have procedures to address worker safety. We
discussed the issues we address in this statement with EPA.
EPA did not provide sufficient information in its second plan to
allow the public to make informed choices about their participation.
Specifically, EPA did not fully disclose the limitations in the testing
results from its first program. EPA concluded that a ``very small''
number of samples from its first program exceeded risk levels for
airborne asbestos. However, EPA did not explain that this conclusion
was to be expected because it took over 80 percent of the samples after
residences were professionally cleaned. In addition, EPA did not fully
explain that its conclusion was based on participation from only 20
percent of the eligible residences. Without this additional
information, residents who could have elected to participate might have
been discouraged from doing so because of EPA's conclusion.
EPA did not assess the adequacy of available resources to carry out
its second program effectively. Instead of assessing the costs of
carrying out its program and providing resources accordingly, EPA has
simply identified how much money was left over from the first program.
Further, the amount of funding provided for the second program seems
inconsistent with the scale of second program activities. Specifically,
the $7 million EPA plans to spend for the second program's testing and
cleaning is less than 20 percent of the first program's funding,
despite an increase in the number and type of contaminants being
sampled. EPA indicated that if demand had exceeded available resources,
EPA would have simply limited participation in the program.
After the collapse of the World Trade Center and the accompanying
spread of dust resulting from the collapse, EPA, other federal
agencies, and New York City and New York State public health and
environmental authorities focused on numerous outdoor activities,
including cleanup, dust collection, and air monitoring. In May 2002,
New York City formally requested federal assistance to clean and test
building interiors in the vicinity of the WTC site for airborne
asbestos. Such assistance may be made available to state and local
governments under the Stafford Act and the National Response Plan,
which establishes the process and structure for the federal government
to provide assistance to state and local agencies when responding to
threats or acts of terrorism, major disasters, and other
emergencies.\5\ FEMA, which coordinates the federal response to
requests for assistance from state and local governments, entered into
interagency agreements with EPA to develop and implement the first and
second indoor cleanup programs for residents in Lower Manhattan.
\5\ The National Response Plan replaced the Federal Response Plan.
The Federal Response Plan was in effect on September 11, 2001.
EPA INCORPORATED SOME RECOMMENDATIONS, BUT ITS DECISION NOT TO ADOPT
OTHERS MAY LIMIT THE SECOND PROGRAM'S EFFECTIVENESS
In response to recommendations from the Inspector General and
expert panel members, EPA's second program incorporates some additional
testing elements. For example, EPA is testing for a wider range of
contaminants. In addition to asbestos, EPA will test for man-made
vitreous fibers, which are in such materials as building and appliance
insulation; lead; and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a group of over
100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning
of coal, oil, gas, and garbage. EPA will also test dust as well as the
air. In order to test the dust for these contaminants, EPA had to
develop cleanup standards. However, EPA's second program does not
incorporate the following other recommendations: (1) broadening the
geographic scope of the testing effort, (2) testing HVACs and
``inaccessible'' locations, and (3) expanding the program to include
\6\ EPA's second program does allow commercial building owners to
request testing and cleaning, but does not permit workers or employers
to do so.
Broadening the geographic scope of testing.--EPA did not expand the
scope of testing north of Canal Street, as well as to Brooklyn, as
advisory groups had recommended. EPA reported that it did not expand
the scope of testing because it was not able to differentiate between
normal urban dust and WTC dust, which would have enabled it to
determine the geographic extent of WTC contamination. Some expert panel
members had suggested that EPA investigate whether it was feasible to
develop a method for distinguishing between normal urban dust and WTC
dust. EPA ultimately agreed to do so. Beginning in 2004--almost 3 years
after the disaster--EPA conducted this investigation. EPA officials
told us that because so much time had passed since the terrorist
attack, it was difficult to distinguish between WTC dust and urban
dust. EPA ultimately abandoned this effort because peer reviewers
questioned its methodology; EPA decided not to explore alternative
methods that the peer reviewers had proposed. Instead, EPA will test
only in an area where visible contamination has been confirmed by
aerial photography conducted soon after the WTC attack. However, aerial
photography does not reveal indoor contamination, and EPA officials
told us that they knew that some WTC dust was found immediately after
the terrorist attacks outside the area eligible for its first and
second program, such as in Brooklyn.
Testing HVACs and in inaccessible areas.--In its November 2005
draft plan for the second program, EPA had proposed collecting samples
from a number of locations in HVACs. In some buildings HVACs are
shared, and in others each residence has its own system. In either
case, contaminants in the HVAC could recontaminate the residence unless
the system is also professionally cleaned. However, EPA's second
program will not provide for testing in HVACs unless tests in common
areas reveal that standards for any of four contaminants have been
exceeded. EPA explains in the second plan that it will not sample
within HVACs because it chose to offer more limited testing in a
greater number of apartments and common areas rather than provide more
comprehensive testing in a smaller number of these areas. Similarly,
EPA had proposed sampling for contaminants in ``inaccessible''
locations, such as behind dishwashers and rarely moved furniture within
apartments and common areas. Again, because it was unable to
differentiate between normal urban dust and WTC dust, EPA stated that
it would not test in inaccessible locations in order to devote its
resources to as many requests as possible. In fact, EPA only received
295 requests from residents and building owners to participate in the
second program, compared with 4,166 eligible participants in the first
\7\ A total of 640 individual residents and building owners
registered for the second program. Of this total, 295 eligible
participants submitted the necessary access agreements.
Expanding the program to include workers/workplaces. According to
EPA's second program plan, the plan is ``the result of ongoing efforts
to respond to concerns of residents and workers.'' Workers were
concerned that workplaces in Lower Manhattan experienced the same
contamination as residences. In its second program, EPA will test and
clean common areas in commercial buildings, but will do so only if an
individual property owner or manager requests the service. EPA stated
that employees who believe their working conditions are unsafe as a
result of WTC dust may file a complaint with OSHA or request an
evaluation by HHS's National Institute of Occupational Safety and
Health. Concerns remain, however, because these other agencies do not
have the authority to conduct cleanup in response to contaminant levels
that exceed standards. In addition, OSHA's standards are designed
primarily to address airborne contamination, while EPA's test and clean
program is designed to address contamination in building spaces,
whether the contamination is airborne or in settled dust. Thus, OSHA
can require individual employers to adopt work practices to reduce
employee exposure to airborne contaminants, whereas EPA's test and
clean program is designed to remove contaminants from affected spaces.
EPA DID NOT PROVIDE THE PUBLIC WITH SUFFICIENT INFORMATION TO MAKE
FULLY INFORMED DECISIONS
EPA did not provide sufficient information in its second plan so
that the public could make informed choices about their participation.
Specifically, EPA did not fully disclose the limitations in the testing
results from its first program. While EPA stated that the number of
samples in its first program exceeding risk levels for airborne
asbestos was ``very small,'' it did not fully explain that this
conclusion was limited by the following factors.
Participation.--Participation in the program came from about 20
percent of the residences eligible for participation. In addition,
participation was voluntary, which may suggest that the sample of
apartments was not representative of all the residences eligible for
the program. Those who chose to participate may not have been at
Contaminants tested.--EPA's cleanup decisions were based only on
tests for asbestos, rather than other contaminants, and the decisions
focused on airborne contamination rather than contamination in dust
Sampling protocol.--EPA took over 80 percent of the samples after
professional cleaning was complete. Therefore it is not surprising that
EPA found few samples exceeding its asbestos standard.
EPA also did not explain in its second program plan that its first
program's test results excluded samples that were discarded because
they were ``not cleared--that is, could not be analyzed because the
filter had too many fibers to be analyzed under a microscope. However,
EPA's final report on its first program stated that residences with
more than one inconclusive result, such as filter overload, were
encouraged to have their residences re-cleaned and re-tested. EPA did
not explain the impact of excluding these samples or other data
limitations from its conclusion that the number of samples exceeding
asbestos standards was very small. Without providing complete
explanations of the data, residents who could have elected to
participate might have been discouraged from doing so.
EPA DID NOT ADEQUATELY ASSESS RESOURCE NEEDS FOR THE SECOND PROGRAM
EPA did not take steps to ensure that resources would be adequate
to achieve the second program's objectives. Instead, EPA is
implementing this program with the funding remaining after its first
program--approximately $7 million. EPA could not provide us with any
basis for determining whether this funding level is appropriate. EPA
officials told us that they were unable to determine the cost of the
program without knowing the number of participants. However, we note
that funds available for the second program are less than 20 percent of
the first program's funding, despite an increase in the number and type
of contaminants being sampled.
Almost two-thirds of the panel members told us they did not believe
the $7 million for the sampling and cleanup was sufficient. According
to one of the expert panel's chairmen--a former EPA Assistant
Administrator--the $7 million was sufficient for initial sampling in
the second program, but not for sampling and cleanup. If demand had
exceeded available resources, EPA would have simply limited
participation by ranking program applicants on the basis of their
proximity to the WTC site.
Shortcomings in EPA's second program to test and clean residences
for WTC contamination raise questions about the agency's preparedness
for addressing indoor contamination resulting from future disasters.
The effectiveness of this program may be limited because some important
recommendations were not incorporated, and because program
implementation will not begin until later this year--more than 5 years
after the World Trade Center collapsed. Furthermore, owing to these
factors, the majority of panel members do not support EPA's second
program, noting that it was not responsive to the concerns of residents
and workers harmed by the collapse of the WTC towers, it was
scientifically and technically flawed, or it was unacceptable because
it would not identify the extent of contamination. Some panel members
questioned the value of participating in EPA's program, and even stated
that they would discourage participation.
Madam Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be
happy to respond to any questions that you or Members of the
Subcommittee may have.
CONTACTS AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and
Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this testimony. For
further information about this testimony, please contact John B.
Stephenson, Director, Natural Resources and Environment (202) 512-3841,
or [email protected] Key contributors to this testimony were Janice
Ceperich, Katheryn Summers Hubbell, Karen Keegan, Omari Norman, Diane
B. Raynes, Carol Herrnstadt Shulman, and Sandra Tasic. Additional
assistance was provided by Katherine M. Raheb.
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Senator Clinton. Thank you very much, Mr. Stephenson.
If I may begin by directing a series of questions to Mr.
Connaughton, Chairman Connaughton. As you noted in your
testimony, you and I did meet to discuss the findings of the
2003 Inspector General report, because the report did raise a
number of serious concerns, primarily White House interference
with EPA's communications about air quality and flaws with
EPA's indoor test and clean plan.
I appreciate that we reached an accommodation at that time
on the indoor contamination issue in the form of your
commitment to launch an expert panel to look into it. We will
explore the work of that panel and its results with other
But I think it is fair to say, Chairman Connaughton, that
there remained a number of troubling issues, raised by the EPA
Inspector General, about EPA's early statements about air
quality. This is really an opportunity for you to respond to
some of these, because I think in the area of lessons learned,
the whole issue of how we communicate with the public is
critical. Every study that I have read about how best to convey
information to the public with respect to a disaster puts a
very high priority on the quality of information, the accuracy
of information, the validation of that information by
independent sources. Certainly, the Inspector General found
that EPA's early statements that the air was safe to breathe
was incomplete. It lacked necessary qualifications and was not
supported by the data available at the time.
Let me just ask you, isn't it true that CEQ was involved in
the drafting of those statements about air quality?
Mr. Connaughton. Yes, that's right, Madam Chairwoman. Very
soon after the attack, Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Bolton
established a domestic consequences group that ensured that
there would be significant coordination among the different
agencies, Federal agencies, in responding, not just in
response, but also in communications and other issues
associated with that, so that we would be working in a
coordinated manner. You had ATSDR, you had EPA, you had OSHA,
you had the New York State Department of Health, you had the
New York City Department of Health. There were a lot of
entities that were ramping up to a response. It was clear that
some level of organization and coordination was going to be
Not just with the response. What we were doing with the
environmental response had to then also take into account, we
did not know if another attack was coming. The National
Security Council, there needed to be a central node with them,
so that we could feed in the environmental piece of the
equation while they were looking at some of the human health
issues, while they were looking at some of the security issues,
the first responder issues, to be sure that we are doing triage
on the highest priorities, getting the information that we
needed in order and being sure we were taking advantage of
Senator Clinton. But let me ask you, Mr. Chairman, because
the Inspector General goes on to say that the Agency did not
reflect in its statements the best professional advice of the
Agency's own experts. It appeared that the EPA's best
professional advice was overruled when relaying information to
the public in the weeks immediately following the disaster.
Further, the AGA found that the White House Council on
Environmental Quality, which you chair, influenced through the
collaboration process which you just described the information
that EPA communicated to the public through its early press
releases, when it convinced EPA to add reassuring statements
and to delete cautionary ones.
So let me ask: did you convince EPA to add reassuring
statements and delete cautionary ones?
Mr. Connaughton. I think those characterizations by the
Inspector General were incompletely formed and inaccurate.
Senator Clinton. Well, let me just show you, the EPA IG
report contains several specific examples of these types of
changes, and one of them is reproduced on a chart that I
brought today. Let me see--it is impossible to read, but as the
chart shows, a draft September 13, 2001 press release stated
that ``Preliminary results of EPA's sampling activities,'' the
thousands of samples that Ms. Bodine referred to, ``indicated
no or very low levels of asbestos. However, even at low levels,
EPA considers asbestos hazardous and will continue to monitor
and sample for elevated levels of asbestos and work with
appropriate officials to ensure awareness and proper handling,
transportation and disposal of potentially contaminated debris
That was the original draft. The final release stated that
``EPA is greatly relieved to have learned that there appears to
be no significant levels of asbestos dust in the air in New
York City. We are working closely with rescue crews to ensure
that all appropriate precautions are taken. We will continue to
monitor closely. Public health concerns about asbestos
contamination are primarily related to long-term exposure.
Short-term low-level exposure is unlikely to cause significant
There is a difference between the meaning and the impact of
those. EPA originally said, however, even at low levels, EPA
considered asbestos hazardous.
So why did CEQ overrule EPA, an agency with considerably
more staff and expertise about environmental hazards, and
modify that press release?
Mr. Connaughton. Actually, the inverse was the case, Madam
Chairwoman. We had daily and sometimes more than daily
conference calls with the people from Region 2, as well as the
people here in Washington, including CEQ, that were going over
all the communications and all of the data. What Mr.
Thurndstrom was doing was coordinating the output of those
discussions. The people drafting the press releases were not
necessarily the professionals who were providing advice on how
to construe the data.
So the final product of that one particular press release
was the product of a much broader discussion among the public
health professionals in the field and back here in Washington
on how to make this one particular statement.
The other thing that is important, Madam Chairman, this is
one press release out of what were thousands and thousands of
communications. We had a particular focus on the workers, who
faced extreme danger in the conditions during the recovery and
rescue work. We had a second focus on the people who were
acutely exposed to the volume of dust immediately after the
collapse, and that really was in the hands of the public health
professionals. EPA was instrumental in encouraging people to go
seek medical help and monitoring.
Then there was the third category about the residents, the
people who were distant from the immediate Ground Zero, but who
were worried about the smell and the odor and all the things
that you all know about, the visceral scents from the fires in
the days that followed September 11th. So what this one press
release was was the first statement regarding the ambient
concerns and it was specifically focused on the questions that
came up with respect to asbestos. The data that we had in hand
5 days after monitoring started actually provided much greater
reassurance. I can tell you, all of us were relieved. We feared
that there would be quite substantial amounts of asbestos that
people might be directly exposed to. As it happens, the data
was showing that that was not the case.
I think the statement in the final press release was the
accurate one. It is the other formulations that we decided as a
group that needed to be adjusted. So this is not--your
representation of overruling or not overruling and misleading,
it just doesn't capture the nature of the dynamic we had at the
time. We discussed this a bit in your office, and again, I am
happy to go into greater detail on that process.
Senator Clinton. Well, Mr. Connaughton, my time is up, I am
going to go to my colleagues. But would you be willing to
answer more specific questions of the nature that would get to
the bottom of this? Because there is, as you are well aware,
other evidence, particularly concerning Mr. Thurndstrom and
some of his statements and some of the e-mail exchanges between
Region 2 and the CEQ and EPA here in Washington.
What we are trying to figure out is how to sort this out.
Because I think it is fair to say that many people in New York
took the statements and were greatly relieved and reassured
about them. If there had been a more accurate depiction, and I
would argue that the first press release was more accurate,
that low levels of asbestos exposure, to say nothing of
everything else that was in the air, could pose health hazards,
people could have made appropriate decisions.
That is where we are trying to get to the lessons learned
here. I believe we should always err on the side of giving as
accurate a picture as possible, so that people can make
decisions for themselves. But let me move now to Senator Craig.
Mr. Connaughton. Senator, if I might, just on one point,
the 9/11 Commission did look at all this very carefully and
they talked with all of us. They concluded that although the
White House review process resulted in some editorial changes
to the press releases, these changes were consistent with what
the EPA had already been saying without White House clearance.
What we are trying to do on that one press release that
everyone is focused on is bring into one place what had been a
constant flow of information on the ground directly to people.
I don't know about you, but I don't read press releases. I
don't think the public was reading the press release. What it
was was follow-up by reporters who were getting more detailed,
there were outside people commenting on what the risks were.
The New York Department of Public Health was making commentary
on some of the human health issues.
But really, the most important communications are the ones
that Governor Whitman----
Senator Clinton. Mr. Connaughton, I understand your
position. It is also clear, and we should put into the record,
there is a current lawsuit going on, which you are well aware
of, and under oath, the judge has reached very different
conclusions based on the testimony that has been provided so
far, and gone to the extent of even calling Governor Whitman
and others at the EPA misleading and given great emphasis to
the way that this information was communicated, and done so, I
think based more accurately on the evidence that has been
But I would just appreciate your willingness to provide
additional information, so that we could sort this out. Let me
turn now to Senator Craig.
Senator Craig. Madam Chairman, I am going to yield to
Senator Inhofe because of his schedule, then I will come back.
Senator Inhofe. Thank you very much, Senator Craig and
Let me start off by recalling to the memories around here
that I chaired this committee during the years after 9/11. In
fact, I was somewhat apologetic to you and others during that
period of time, because we had such intense oversight and so
many questions. You were always very, very cooperative, and I
want to compliment you publicly on that, Chairman Connaughton.
Let me ask you this question. Isn't it reasonable for a
White House office, such as CEQ, to coordinate with Federal
agencies to involve and produce common Federal messages? Are
there any issues about this you would like to clarify
concerning Federal communications?
Mr. Connaughton. I think in the after-reviews of what
happened, I think the process that Deputy Chief of Staff Bolton
put in place earned high praise, the fact that we were able to
so rapidly create the coordination function that later became
the Homeland Security Council, which also everybody was very
strongly supportive of across the country, the Governors in
particular. So what we had going on what exactly what people
would expect. You would hope that the President and the White
House were on top of the situation, and were actually
coordinating to be sure that information was being obtained in
a timely fashion, we are prioritizing those needs and we are
getting people out to the right people in the right place at
the right time.
As a participant in that process, I found it particularly
effective. Everyone was throwing in their oars. We had fly-
overs, doing satellite monitoring, we had airplane monitoring,
we had on the ground monitoring. That information was coming in
at a level of detail and a level of coordination that you
typically do not see, and it is to be commended.
Senator Inhofe. I am glad you are clarifying that, because
we had hearings involving all those other parties. I thought it
was done quite well.
Let me ask you, Mr. Stephenson, you heard my opening
statement, a quote that I made from the New York City Health
Commissioner Frieden. I will read it again: ``The environmental
investigations and testing conducted in lower Manhattan
indicate that the potential health impacts from any remaining
World Trade Center dust are extremely low or non-existent.''
Did you consult New York City's Department of Health during the
compilation of your report, and do you disagree or agree with
Mr. Stephenson. We did meet with them. They are talking
about ambient air samples, I believe. We were looking
specifically at indoor air and the second program in
particular. So the sampling I was talking about took place on a
voluntary basis from indoor apartments.
Senator Inhofe. All right. Captain Rodenbeck, let me ask
you a question. Why don't you first of all define for some of
us what dust signature is, then I will ask my question.
Captain Rodenbeck. In this particular case, when we are
talking about a dust signature, it is the makeup of the dust
that makes it unique to the original source. So in this case,
we are talking about how the building material that generated
the dust is different in a way so you could look at different
samples and say, yes, this originated from the World Trade
Senator Inhofe. All right. Now, were you able to do that, I
understand that you were not able to complete the dust sampling
to your satisfaction?
Captain Rodenbeck. Not to our satisfaction, no.
Senator Inhofe. I see. Can you comment on whether you
believe that the current testing and cleaning program is a step
in the right direction?
Captain Rodenbeck. Without the dust signature, we cannot
fundamentally answer the basic question that we all want to
answer: is there still World Trade Center dust out there at
levels of health concern.
Senator Inhofe. Ms. Bodine, you made the comment that you
talked about lessons learned. I don't think you had a chance to
elaborate any on that. Would you like to?
Ms. Bodine. Yes, thank you, Senator.
I wanted to point out, one of the challenges during 9/11
was certainly trying to come up with benchmarks and sampling
protocols and methods to address situations that the Agency had
not previously had to address. The staff did a tremendous job
of consulting with experts, drawing together expert opinion and
developing benchmarks and protocols.
But certainly as a lesson learned, we know that we can
today look and say, what can we anticipate, what don't we know.
Today, we can start working on closing those information gaps.
I mentioned that we had established a National
Decontamination Team. One of their roles is of course, to
respond. They always have their bags packed. But it is also to
identify data gaps and work with our National Homeland Security
Research Center, which is in Cincinnati, it is one of Dr.
Gray's labs, to work together to do research to close some of
those data gaps.
In addition, we have been developing a network of
environmental laboratories. Because again, one of the issues
during 9/11 and even more so during Katrina was just the vast
amount of data we collected and it became a capacity issue,
collecting data and having the labs that are able to analyze it
in a sufficient time to then provide good information to the
public and provide information to officials who need to make
So we have been working with laboratories around the
country, again, to establish common protocols, so that we have
good information, we have information that is of high quality,
so that when the next disaster hits, we have that capacity.
Senator Inhofe. Thank you very much, and thank you, Senator
Craig, for helping accommodate my schedule.
Senator Clinton. Senator Lautenberg.
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
It is obvious that there are different memories of things
that were done and said and challenges to the reliability of
things. You are all under strictures that talked about correct
or not false statements. So I just wanted to be sure that that
is clearly understood, and that, because, as the Chairperson
described, we are going to continue this research of ours.
Because there are so many challenges to what is said to be the
intention of the White House to cover issues, so that they were
to downplay the public risks and the EPA press releases were
changed or modified to downplay those risks.
Why did the CEQ, Mr. Connaughton, decline to meet with the
EPA Inspector General's investigators as they were preparing
Mr. Connaughton. As I understand it, and you are now taking
me back many years on this particular item, as I understand it,
the Inspector General doesn't have authority to do oversight of
offices outside of the EPA, and in particular, the President's
offices. So it was just an issue of the Inspector General's
authority. That is as I understand it. But I was not closely
attuned to all the ins and outs of that. But that was dealt
with by the White House Counsel's Office.
Senator Lautenberg. It is hard to see why that wouldn't,
they wouldn't be included in the traditional IG's activities.
EPA officials told the Inspector General that your staff
deleted recommendations that New York City residents obtain
professional cleaning services for indoor areas. Why would the
White House recommend removing those alerts from the
Mr. Connaughton. Actually, Senator, I am not in a position
to recall very specific decisions about very specific pieces of
text, some of which I was not directly involved in. There was
an interface between Mr. Thurndstrom of my office, who actually
is a New Yorker as well, and the EPA on compiling the results
of these broader interfaces among the public health
professionals that I talked about.
So the effort between them was to see, to do the best job
they could, using their best professional judgment, to capture
the information we were receiving and then communicate that in
the most accurate and timely way we could, and then to update
that information as it was obtained. So any particular issue,
items were added to the press releases, items were deleted to
the press releases, items were changed in the press releases.
EPA made changes, my office made changes, OSHA suggested
changes. This was a typical process of an inter-agency
coordination on a communications document.
Senator Lautenberg. But without laboring under the review
of the process, what are the elements that were obviously
changed, differentiated, that would cause people to make
changes that said, well, one particular CEQ official was
designated to work with the EPA to ensure that clearances were
obtained through the National Security Council. Although EPA's
position is that World Trade Center area residents should
obtain professional cleaning, EPA's press releases did not
instruct residents to do so. Instead, they instructed residents
to follow recommended and proper cleaning procedures.
We asked the OCEM, our associate administrator, whether her
office had considered advising the public through a press
release that they needed to obtain professional cleaning. The
associate administrator said it was in a press release, it was
removed by a CEQ contact. So there are so many differences
here, Madam Chairman, that we are going to have to continue
getting answers to these questions, if necessary, by writing,
but also under the framework of forthrightness.
I want to close, Ms. Bodine, your statement about America
stronger than ever is almost gratuitous. Because you make that
statement without looking at the total problems that this
country has as a result of inaction in the post-9/11 days, and
further problems that we have. We have thousands of people
doing security work, we have constant, we have new findings
that terrorists are after us, people are living in a fearful
mode. In my judgment, and I love our country, and I respect so
much those who did the heroic work to try and save lives down
there, there is no insinuation that those things were not done
properly. It was as a result of the decisions that were made by
the Administration, I think, that put people in jeopardy.
So when you make a statement like that, America is stronger
than ever, it doesn't really register. That is your opinion and
it would be best if you said, just registered it that way.
Senator Clinton. I am going to ask the witnesses'
indulgence. I have to go vote, I will be right back. We will
have one final round of questions for the witnesses before we
move on to the next panel.
Those of you who have never been to a Senate hearing
before, this is the way it works. We never know exactly what we
are going to have to do from minute to minute. But I really
appreciate your being here. These are important issues and I
will be back very shortly.
Senator Clinton. Thank you very, very much for your
I want to just put a few things in the record before I ask
my final questions. One, the ATSDR fact sheet, and their study
says, ``Results probably underestimate the levels of World
Trade Center-related material that were in lower Manhattan
immediately after 9/11.'' The sampling that was done and the
results, I think are very important for our continuing
Second, there is no consensus, it has been said about
whether a signature is possible, but there were two studies
that I would like to enter into the record that said a
signature was possible. Unfortunately, we didn't act in a
timely manner. The National Science Foundation funded work that
has even found a defined dust signature in the sediments of New
York Harbor. I would enter that into the record.
Then the USGS released in 2005 preliminary studies
demonstrating the ability to apply a World Trade Center dust
signature that can be used to guide health-based research and
[The referenced information follows:]
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Senator Clinton. Two final things on some of what has been
discussed about the EPA's authority.
The EPA has done indoor work in Libby, MT since 1992. In
1998, there was a Presidential directive put in place putting
EPA in charge of building decontamination. That is one of the
reasons why it was quite bewildering to us that there wasn't an
immediate acceptance of responsibility by the EPA and I can
only assume that that Presidential directive putting EPA in
charge of indoor contamination was either not known of or
Now, I want to go back to Ms. Bodine because you spoke at
some length about the National Response Plan that the EPA put
in place, I believe you said, in 2003, is that correct?
Ms. Bodine. Our National Approach to Response, correct.
Senator Clinton. Right. Well, then, I would like to direct
your attention to a report issued by the White House Homeland
Security Advisor, Fran Townsend, in February 2006, about the
Administration's response to Katrina. Again, I quote from it.
``Federal officials could have improved the identification
of environmental hazards and communication of appropriate
warnings to emergency responders and the public. There must be
a comprehensive plan to accurately and quickly communicate this
critical information to the emergency responders and area
residents who need it. Had such a plan existed, the mixed
messages from Federal, State and local officials on the re-
entry into New Orleans could have been avoided. DHS, in
coordination with EPA, HHS, OSHA and DOE, should develop an
integrated plan to quickly gather environmental data and
provide the public and emergency responders the most accurate
information available to decide whether it is safe to operate
in a disaster environment or return after evacuation. This plan
should address how to best communicate risk as well as
determine who is accountable for making the determination that
an area is safe. It should also address the need for adequate
laboratory capacity to support response to all hazards. The
plan should be completed in 180 days.''
Now, this was a finding in a report actually done by the
White House. It certainly raises questions about the
comprehensiveness and adequacy of the plan that EPA put into
place. Has EPA worked with the Department of Homeland Security
to respond to these requests that Fran Townsend made in her
assessment of what the Government did after Katrina?
Ms. Bodine. The Agency has been working on a crisis
communication plan. It is still in draft, it is still under
review within the Agency. There is also under the National
Response Plan an Emergency Support Function Number 15, which is
called External Affairs, which talks about the coordination of
communications among all the agencies.
Senator Clinton. Well, Ms. Bodine, it has to be clear that
if there were problems in communicating after 9/11, and as you
have testified today, the Agency began to take steps to try to
have a better plan in place, and yet Katrina comes along and
the White House's own review finds that the communication
system was inadequate, and it is now nearly 2 years after
Katrina and there is still not a communication plan, that has
to raise serious doubts about the urgency with which the
Administration approaches these issues. I would like to see a
report from the EPA detailing where you are in response to this
requirement to have a better plan and a further report as soon
as you can get that to the committee.
[The referenced information follows:]
Recommendation 87 of the White House (Townsend) Report, ``The
Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned,'' referred to
by Chairman Clinton, recommended that the Department of Homeland
Security, in consultation with EPA and other Federal agencies, develop
an integrated plan regarding communication of environmental and safety
information to the public and emergency responders. The Department of
Homeland Security is in a better position to report on its efforts to
address this recommendation. Meanwhile, EPA has taken a number of
actions to increase the Agency's ability to provide timely and accurate
environmental data in future disaster environments, including
establishing a crisis communications work group to identify and
implement opportunities to strengthen crisis communication procedures
and developing a draft crisis communications plan.
Let me now turn to GAO, because GAO has done a very
thorough job in trying to make sense out of many of the
contradictory statements and actions that have marked the 9/11
experience. EPA's testimony notes a very low exceedance rate
for asbestos in its first indoor test and clean program. Your
testimony suggests that EPA used this data in a misleading way.
Can you elaborate on this point, and does GAO have any other
criticisms about EPA's risk communication after 9/11? Mr.
Mr. Stephenson. First, you have to remember that the first
program, as was the second, was a voluntary program. Air
samples were taken largely after the apartments had been
cleaned. There was an option for residents to select tests only
or test and clean. Eighty percent of them, I believe, chose the
latter option, to clean first and then test. But you have to
assume that the others who tested only were not sitting around
not cleaning their apartments.
Our only point was that including that information with any
public communication might have been heard differently by
residents deciding to participate in the program or not.
Senator Clinton. Let me follow up on that. EPA's December
2006 press release announcing the current test and clean
program included the following statement from Dr. George Gray:
``We believe the potential for exposure related to dust that
may remain from the collapse of the World Trade Center
buildings is low.''
In your judgment, is this statement by Dr. Gray supported
by the data that the Agency has collected?
Mr. Stephenson. Well, EPA doesn't have, has never done a
comprehensive assessment of a single building. It is all based
on voluntary samples from individual residences. It was done
without benefit of looking for dust in HVAC areas, hard to
access areas, et cetera. There was an aggressive test approach
where they would go into the apartment and blow the air out.
But it wasn't clear which of the samples were done in that
manner versus the samples simply taken after cleaning. So we
think the data is quite inconclusive, and we don't think EPA
has ever done a comprehensive assessment of the extent of
damage in a building, let alone in the lower Manhattan area.
Senator Clinton. I certainly agree with that, and I think
that is the fair conclusion, that EPA has not done a
comprehensive study. I think it's clear that we don't have an
accurate base of information to try to determine the causation
behind a lot of the illnesses that people are suffering. We
know people are getting sick.
I mentioned a number of studies in my opening statement.
Here is another one. Just this month, a study published by
researchers from the New York State Department of Health, the
New York University School of Medicine and the State University
of New York at Albany concluded that residents who were exposed
to contamination generated by the collapse that had been
deposited in their homes had a significantly elevated rate of
persistent airway disease. The study also found a strong
correlation between reactive airway disease and exposures to
indoor contamination for a period of 3 months or longer.
I would like to enter this report into the record, because
really this all comes back to my concern that we were never
fully focused on what we needed to do at the time and instead
of going forward and saying, well, maybe in the immediate
aftermath, which I absolutely agree was confusing and
difficult, we missed some points, we weren't as clear as we
needed to be, let's regroup and go forward. I think the
evidence is very clear that we never did what was required. The
EPA never did it, the Council on Environmental Quality never
required it. I think it is critical to do the oversight and
have a detailed evaluation of EPA's readiness to respond to
releases of hazardous substances in disasters.
[The referenced material follows:]
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Senator Clinton. Mr. Stephenson, I will soon submit a
request to GAO to look into this issue of EPA preparedness more
broadly. Because my concern is intensified by the White House's
own findings about EPA's failures in the wake of Katrina. I
don't know how any of us can sit here and be satisfied that if
something disastrous happened tomorrow, we would not once again
be facing confusion, misstatements, failures, that are going to
cost people their lives and/or their health.
So we will be submitting additional questions to each of
the witnesses. I look forward to your cooperation. Because for
me, this is about how do we know we are doing better. That is a
duty we owe to all of our citizens, and I think it is a duty we
have not met.
I would also submit to the record the decision by Judge
Batts in the case that I referenced in New York that found that
Administrator Whitman certainly knew better than the statements
that she made. On the contrary, the judge found, after looking
at extensive evidence, that Governor Whitman's statements were
deliberate and misleading, and in fact, they shock the
conscience. No argument can be made that Whitman could not have
understood from existing law that her conduct was unlawful.
That is not me, that is not Inspector General, that is not a
political person, that is a Federal judge.
So we have to do much better. We owe it to the people that
look to their Government to protect them and I hope that we
will be able to come up with some lessons learned that will
plug holes in legislation and regulation.
Senator Lautenberg, do you have any other questions for
Senator Lautenberg. Just if I might, and I thank the panel
for their continuing to be with us. I want to ask Ms. Bodine
about whether or not EPA today is prepared to make clear and
consistent statements about the potential short-term and long-
term risks posed by toxics and dust during an incident that
would produce that kind of an after effect. Does EPA have a
communications program in place to make the kind of, that kind
of statement on an issue of environmental protection health,
really alerting the people who could be affected to the risks
that are posed by the consequence of this type?
Ms. Bodine. Senator, I believe that we do. I would like to
point out the review of EPA's communications during Katrina by
our EPA Inspector General. There was a May 2, 2006 report, the
title is ``EPA Provided Quality and Timely Information on
Hurricane Katrina, Hazardous Materials Releases and Debris
Management.'' The Agency did a fabulous job during Katrina in
collecting data and making that data available to the public,
so that they could make decisions about their own safety.
Senator Lautenberg. So you feel that we are in better shape
today as a result of the post-Katrina data flow than we were at
the time of 9/11?
Ms. Bodine. Yes. As has been described, at the time the
World Trade Center event was unprecedented in terms of the
amount of environmental information we were collecting,
analyzing, making available. Katrina was even greater in
magnitude. Yet our Agency employees have developed ways of
getting, creating portals, creating data bases, getting
information out far more quickly than we were able to during
the World Trade Center response. So yes, we are in a better
position to communicate.
Senator Lautenberg. Thanks. Mr. Connaughton, we know that
CEQ was involved in editing EPA press releases to minimize the
concern that a more candid assessment of health risks from
toxic dust might have done. Why does the White House, why do
they seem so focused on preventing the raw truth to the public?
Why did you feel it necessary in CEQ to review press statements
and change things that were in there that might have been of
more concern but more candid?
Mr. Connaughton. We don't.
Senator Lautenberg. Well, you did then, according to the
reports that we see, that there were modifications of words and
statements that you were the final decisionmaker in terms of
what was allowable, what could go to the press. There are lots
of things that stress the fact that no releases were to go out
without the approval of the Administration, and that would have
Mr. Connaughton. I disagree with your conclusion, Senator.
Senator Lautenberg. All right. Well, we are going to
examine the record closely and maybe sharpen your recollection.
Thanks very much.
Senator Clinton. Thank you very much, Senator Lautenberg.
Thanks to the panel. I appreciate all of you being here. We
will follow up with some specific requests that we hope will
get your prompt attention. Thank you all.
Our next panel, as they are coming forward, includes two
people with direct experience in New York with respect to the
issues we are examining. David Newman is from the New York
Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. Nina Lavin is a
resident of the World Trade Center area. I thank them both very
much for being part of this investigation and oversight
Nina, we are going to start with you. I thank you for
taking your time to be with us. I look forward to your
STATEMENT OF NINA LAVIN, RESIDENT
Ms. Lavin. Chairman Clinton, Senator Lautenberg, thank you
for inviting me here to testify today.
My name is Nina Lavin and I have resided for the past 5
years at 105 Duane Street, which is situated seven blocks
directly north of the World Trade Center. I was home on
September 11th and witnessed the collapse of both Towers.
Stunned, I evacuated that afternoon.
The next day I returned home to rescue my pets and collect
a few belongings. Ten days later, when I returned home to stay,
a fine, glittery dust had settled on virtually every surface
and belonging throughout my apartment.
The fabric wallpaper in our hallways had grayed throughout
the building. I also noticed dust accumulating around the door
frame of the entrance to my apartment, which looked completely
different from the standard, grimy dust I was familiar with
Christie Todd Whitman's statement on September 18, 2001,
that ``the air is safe to breathe'' set dangerous chaos in
motion in lower Manhattan. For 8 months, EPA insisted they had
no responsibility for indoor cleanup. Instead, city agencies
were left to take the lead. But city agencies weren't set up to
handle the fall-out of what was in truth a Superfund site. They
also had longstanding, inbred relationships with real estate
The City Department of Environmental Protection allowed
landlords to self-certify that their buildings were safe and
looked the other way when landlords mis-used testing methods to
obtain artificially low results, or failed to test at all. When
residents sought guidance on how to clean up from EPA, they
were directed to the City Department of Health Web site, where
they were instructed to clean up World Trade Center dust
themselves, by wet wiping. That is what I did.
Later, to protect myself as best I could, I also purchased
a HEPA vacuum and ran a HEPA air filtration device. For months,
noxious fumes from the site entered our homes, so that even
inside my apartment, the fumes were so intense, it was as
though I had stuck my head inside an oil drum full of burning
industrial materials. Consequently, I experienced headaches,
burning in my eyes, nose and throat, and developed a painful,
By July 2002, I was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis by a
pulmonologist at NYU Medical Center and was moved out of my
apartment for almost 10 months with funding from FEMA.
Currently, I am receiving treatment at the Bellevue World Trade
Center Environmental Health Clinic.
Today, 5\1/2\ years after the event, like so many other
residents, I have sinusitis and esophagitis, which are
conditions of chronic inflammation, and acid reflux, all of
which are now recognized as being linked to World Trade Center
exposures. These symptoms are not diminishing, and while they
may not be life-threatening, no one knows what is in store down
The big questions remain: What were we exposed to, for how
long, and are we still being exposed? Unfortunately, we have no
answers to any of these questions, in large part because the
EPA refused to take its responsibility for assessing and
cleaning up indoor contamination.
In 2002, since EPA wasn't doing any indoor testing at that
point to protect residents, I took matters into my own hands. I
privately hired a certified industrial hygienist to conducted
asbestos testing inside my apartment. My building was
constructed in the early 1990s and therefore, can be presumed
to have been constructed free of asbestos-containing materials.
Testing using the microvac method revealed highly elevated
concentrations of asbestos in dust clumps formed in the front
doorway of my apartment, which opens into an interior hallway
of the building. Significant but lesser levels were found deep
inside the two HVAC units.
Because of these findings, I chose to participate in the
voluntary cleanup program EPA offered in 2002. I am not a
scientist, but common sense tells me this program was woefully
inadequate. First, the cleanup was voluntary and many of my
neighbors took this as a sign that participation was
unnecessary and a waste of time. Second, cleanup of building
common areas, hallways, lobbies, et cetera, was entirely left
to the discretion of building owners, posing a serious
Third, cleaning of HVAC systems was flawed and based
exclusively upon an unscientific evaluation of dust color. Very
few HVACs were ever cleaned.
Finally, the cleanups were performed by seemingly untrained
workers, using poor equipment. In my apartment, the cleaning
crew used cheap, dark-colored, non-absorbent, synthetic
bathroom towels, which moved the wet dirt around without
picking it up. Luckily, though, on the advice of cleanup
professionals I had spoken with, I had a backup plan: Huggie
wipes. I gave these to the cleaners and once they began using
them, the dust and dirt started coming off, and coming off--the
same surfaces that had previously been cleaned using the cheap,
Six months after the EPA cleanup of my apartment, I had
testing done again for asbestos, lead and numerous heavy metal
analytes. While asbestos was found in a low level in one window
well, the lead was found to be elevated in both windows and in
one of them, just below the cutoff point for which immediate
lead remediation would have been required.
To quote the written report on the finding of heavy metals,
``The heavy metal sampling revealed the presence of various
heavy metals found in the apartment. Published standards for
acceptable levels of heavy metals on surfaces within the space
do not exist. Standards have not been developed because the
presence of most of these contaminants is neither a normal nor
an acceptable condition in commercial or residential space.''
It is now 2007. Is the air safe to breathe? No one knows.
Lessons learned by EPA? I have learned the latest EPA cleanup
plan is as poor as the last.
Thank you for allowing me to speak today.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Lavin follows:]
Statement of Nina Lavin, Resident
Chairman Clinton, Ranking Member Craig, and members of the
My name is Nina Lavin. I am a resident of lower Manhattan who
experienced first hand the devastation that the collapse of the World
Trade Center wreaked upon my neighborhood. I would like to tell you my
story with the understanding that it is a stand-in for thousands of
others like it. I also want you to know of our serious lingering
concerns that toxic contaminants still remain in our homes.
I do not always remember the precise dates of events anymore and
the story of what happened downtown is hard to summarize in one
statement. But what remains crystal clear is that Christie Todd
Whitman's words on September 18, 2001, assuring New York and the nation
that ``the good news is the air is safe to breathe,'' was reckless and
false and set dangerous chaos in motion for all of us living downtown.
Her statement is directly at odds with what she, her agency, and
the administration already knew: that out of 143 bulk samples collected
out of doors in the days immediately following 9/11, 76% of the tests
contained asbestos and 34% of those tests met the regulatory definition
of asbestos containing materials, or ACMs as they are known.
And EPA would also have understood that while outdoor toxins may
dissipate over time with wind, rain and sunlight, those that make their
way indoors can build up and remain in high concentrations, settling on
surfaces only to be stirred up over and over, often invisibly, as
people go about their daily lives. In addition, and importantly, those
results were only for asbestos, the tip of the iceberg in terms of what
we were exposed to down here.
Once the EPA shirked its responsibility to protect us at the
federal level, there was an immediate trickle down effect to our local
EPA Region 2, and to the City Department of Environmental Protection
(DEP) and the City Department of Health (DOH). As a resident, I saw the
way deception starting at the federal level, where policy-making
begins, then permeated local policy making in all three of these
agencies, putting the health and lives of so many people at risk.
This trickle down was demonstrated over and over in testimony given
during the February 23, 2002 hearing convened by the EPA Ombudsman's
office, an independent internal watchdog that no longer exists. Indeed,
the only two EPA employees I witnessed trying to protect our health
here in New York were Ombudsman Robert Martin and his Chief
Investigator Hugh Kaufman, who were stripped of their jobs while trying
to expose the failures of the EPA after 9/11.
Without EPA acting as the lead agency, it was left to the city
agencies to take the lead; but the city agencies weren't set up to
handle the fall-out of what was in truth a super fund site. And those
agencies have long standing, inbred relationships with real-estate
interests so that they looked the other way and sanctioned use of
passive air testing methods for indoor use, guaranteed to produce
artificially low estimates of asbestos in indoor environments.
I was asked to tell you about ways in which the collapse of the
Towers impacted my residence, my health, and to describe the EPA
cleanup I received in 2003. Here is my history.
I have resided for the past 12 years at 105 Duane St, which is
located in Tribeca and situated seven blocks directly north of the WTC
site. I was home on September 11 and witnessed the collapse of both
towers. I closed the windows and HVAC flu vents before the buildings
fell; (little did I know that they even would). I closed them in an
effort to keep the fumes from burning fuel, and the glass which visibly
sparkled in the sky, from entering my apartment. After the collapse I
waited a couple of hours to make sure my two cats would be all right--
the sky outside had turned the most apocalyptic color I have ever seen,
and I had the fear I might return home to find them dead, like canaries
in a mine. Ultimately, having just witnessed the collapse of an urban
Mt. Fuji before my very eyes, I was numb with shock, and fled. The next
day I returned, making my way through pitch black hallways with a
flashlight to rescue my pets, and collected a few belongings. When I
returned home ten days later, a fine, glittery dust had settled on
virtually every surface and belonging throughout my apartment. The
wallpaper in the building, made of some type of synthetic fabric, was
grayed throughout the building. I also noticed a dust accumulating
around the doorframe to the entranceway of my apartment which looked
completely different from the standard grimy dust I was familiar with
periodically wiping away when house cleaning. Adding to the impact of
the collapse, our recently hired building superintendent, the father of
two small children who no doubt had panicked himself on 9/11, had
failed to shut down the building's centralized HVAC system, which
continued to run until mid afternoon, when the entire neighborhood
finally lost power.
There were also noxious fumes we all inhaled indoors and out for
months. Although I live seven blocks north of the site, the fumes were
so intense indoors it was sometimes almost as though I had stuck my
head inside an oil drum full of burning industrial materials, office
furniture and whatever else was incinerating on that pyre. I knew
several people who were having nosebleeds and I experienced headaches,
burning in my eyes, nose, throat, and developed a painful hacking
I did the best I could to clean my apartment using whatever
information I could find at that time; I used wet wipe cleaning methods
to avoid stirring up the dust, I purchased a HEPA vacuum cleaner, and
ran a HEPA air filtration device.
In December 2001, a resident on the 10th floor of my building hired
Ed Olmsted, a Certified Industrial Hygienist, to test the public air
supply grille on that floor. Olmsted conducted a microvac test that
revealed 550,000 structures of asbestos per cubic centimeter, a high
finding, especially for a building built free of ACM's.
Meanwhile, the building owner, Related Management, hired Air Tech
to do a standard air shaft cleaning. Not only was Air Tech not
certified to do asbestos remediation, they had never cleaned a building
Since stirring up the dust in the air supply duct would send the
dust straight into hallways throughout the building, Joel Kupferman, an
environmental attorney to whom one of my neighbors had turned for help,
contacted the DEP and DOH and notified them of the asbestos finding. He
also contacted Related Management and insisted that representatives of
the two agencies be admitted to do an inspection.
Along with another tenant, I attended the walk-through of several
hallways, pointing out the dust on the HVAC grille to the DEP and DOH
inspectors and to Related Management's Head of Engineering Peter Hoyle.
It should be noted that Related Management is one of the wealthiest and
most politically powerful real estate entities in New York. In the
meeting, Hoyle asked Carlstein Lutchmedial, a senior member of DEP's
asbestos enforcement team, ``Is it not so that Related Management has
done everything which it is legally mandated to do?'' Lutchmedial
replied, ``Yes, Related Management has done everything which is legally
Both agencies then permitted the cleanup to go forward in a
building full of residents coming and going, who were largely unaware
that this was even an issue.
By July of 2002 I finally had developed such a serious cough I felt
as though my throat would fly out of my mouth. Since EPA wasn't doing
any indoor testing to protect residents, the air being safe to breathe,
I realized it was time for me to do what should have been the
government's job. I privately hired Certified Industrial Hygienist Ed
Olmsted, who had tested the 10th floor grille back in December and who
headed air monitoring oversight at the Fresh Kills 9/11 debris removal
site in Staten Island, to conduct asbestos testing inside my apartment.
I reside in a one bedroom apartment in which the windows and two
individual HVAC units, located in my living room and bedroom, directly
face the World Trade Center site. My building was constructed in the
early 1990's and therefore can be presumed to have been constructed
free of asbestos containing materials and likewise free of corrosive
lead containing paint and pipes. Due to the highly cost prohibitive
nature of such testing (a written report, three asbestos tests plus one
blank for control cost $1,700.00) I tested for asbestos alone.
Testing using the microvac method revealed highly elevated
concentrations of asbestos in dust clumps formed in the front doorway
of my apartment which opens into an interior hallway of the building,
and lesser levels deep inside the two HVAC units. The interior doorway
finding is particularly significant because due to the design of
airflow in the building, it definitively implicates the central air
intake shaft as being the source of the contamination. Presumably it
therefore entered other apartments as well.
I took my test report to FEMA in late July, believing they would
move me with these results in hand. But again, because ``the air was
safe to breathe,'' and because the building was structurally sound,
FEMA would not move me. FEMA was not willing to move anyone without a
doctor's note, which meant people had to wait until they became
sufficiently sick to obtain a doctor's note before being moved. What I
needed was not proof of exposure, it was a doctor's note, and as I was
becoming sick, that was my next step.
In July of 2002 I was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis by a
pulmonologist at NYU Medical Center, a diagnosis corroborated by my
primary care physician. Doctor's letter in hand, I was finally moved
out of my apartment for almost ten months with funding from FEMA. I
should add that even with this letter, it took the intervention of
Congressman Nadler's office to get FEMA to comply in a timely manner
and relocate me. (I wonder how many others whose health was impacted
didn't know they could turn to their elected officials for help.) By
the time I was moved out I had an uncontrollable racking, painful cough
and my sinuses and esophagus were chronically inflamed. I had also
developed acid reflux.
Currently I am receiving treatment at the Bellevue WTC Clinic from
its medical director Dr. Joan Riebman. Initially I had hoped my
symptoms might begin to subside, but unfortunately, five and a half
years after the event, I like so many others continue to have a
lingering group of symptoms, now recognized by the medical community as
being linked to WTC exposure. My particular symptoms are sinusitis,
esophagitis and acid reflux. My voice has changed slightly and I
frequently become horse at night; I do not have asthma, but subtle
changes in my small airways have shown up on x-rays. I am sorry to say
I am not seeing diminishment of symptoms.
These health problems are not life threatening at the moment but no
one knows what's in store down the road. We certainly know of the
exposure related deaths of first responders and recovery workers. The
big questions remain: what were we exposed to, for how long, and does
the exposure continue?
Months after the collapse, in May of 2002, EPA finally announced
they were offering a voluntary residential cleanup program.
Comprehensive testing and remediation of indoor residences and office
spaces should have been mandatory to protect the health of citizens and
to prevent recontamination of cleaned spaces by nearby un-remediated
Voluntary enrollment implied there was no problem; I spoke with
neighbors who trusted the government assurances and who read
``voluntary'' to mean having their homes cleaned was unnecessary and a
waste of time. To also quote from one of the outreach fliers created by
EPA for public distribution: ``While scientific data does not point to
any significant long-term health risks, people should not have to live
with uncertainty about the future.'' http://www.epa.gov/wtc/flyers/
onepagead.pdf This quote implies there is no problem with air quality
because if there were, there would be long-term health risks.
Another voluntary choice thrust upon residents by EPA was between
two different options, with no explanation given for choosing one over
the other. They were:
``To have your residence professionally cleaned and then
tested for asbestos in air.''
``To have your residence tested for asbestos in air
without professional cleaning.
(If--and only if--asbestos is found during testing, you many then
ask that your residence be professionally cleaned.'') Again, the air
testing methods used for this determination were of questionable use in
revealing presence of asbestos, and were not adequate for uncovering
other kinds of contamination.
While individuals could elect to have their homes cleaned, cleanup
of building common areas, hallways, lobbies, laundry rooms, etc. was
entirely at the discretion of building owners. Many landlords did not
want to participate in the EPA cleanup since this could be seen as
suggesting that their buildings were contaminated, potentially setting
off tenants' fears and even flight, raising the specter of litigation
or possible devaluation of their property.
There was the further, key issue of residual contamination in
central HVAC systems. EPA and DEP avoided cleaning those by devising a
visual inspection method. Sometime in early 2003 I witnessed the
inspection in my building. A duct cleaning contractor climbed up a
ladder and peered into several of the building's 10'' x 10'' hallway
vent openings, using a home owner's flashlight. The evaluation was
based on the color of the dust. Looking inside the dark air shaft, my
contractor described our dust as, ``kind of brownish grey. . . .''
Later I was extremely dismayed to learn that this description was being
used by EPA to claim that our HVAC was free of WTC dust.
Not content to accept this conclusion based on this preposterous
and unscientific determination, a neighbor of mine and I reached out to
Congressman Nadler for help. So Linda Rosenthal of Congressman Nadler's
staff accompanied us to a meeting with Kathy Callahan, EPA Region 2
Assistant Administrator. We argued that EPA was required to clean the
ductwork, particularly since testing of the duct, seven months after
Related Management's supposed cleanup job, again showed the presence of
asbestos. Kallahan acknowledged she was aware of the asbestos in our
building and stated she knew it originated from the collapse of the
World Trade Center. Nonetheless, she staunchly refused to remediate the
building's air supply duct. I believe this refusal stemmed from her
awareness that it would set a precedent for cleaning of duct work in
other buildings, particularly large ones.
On the day of my cleanup in late April of 2003, several work crews
arrived on my floor, the goal being for several units to be cleaned
simultaneously per day. Many of the workers appeared to be quite young.
They were not equipped with dual cartridge respirators as this was
conceived of as a ``courtesy cleanup,'' not a remediation. My apartment
was an exception; armed with my test results, I was able to make the
case that the workers wear respirators; cleaning crews elsewhere on the
same floor wore none. The contractor had not supplied the crew with
sufficient amounts of filter cartridges on hand, so I distributed some
of my own.
Towards the end of the day the On Scene Coordinator (OSC) stopped
by my apartment to check on the proceedings; I learned the mandatory
air filtration device in my apartment, required in order to capture
airborne particulates during cleanup, had been improperly set-up; so no
air filtration had occurred. It is a good thing we were all wearing
And the wet wiping methods used to clean surfaces in my home? They
were all dark colored, cheap synthetic bathroom towels, purple and
forest green, which just dragged the wet dust around without picking it
up. The same was true for their disposable, synthetic paper towels.
But on advice I had previously gathered from environmental cleanup
professionals, I had a backup cleaning plan--Huggy Wipes. When I
purchased my respirator from a major supplier to the environmental
cleanup industry I explained to them my apartment had been impacted by
the WTC; they advised me the very best thing I could use for wet wiping
cleanup was Huggy Wipes. And they were right.
I brought out the Huggy Wipes and once the crew began using them,
the dust and dirt just kept coming off and coming off--the same
surfaces that had already been ``cleaned'' with the cheap supplies they
They cleaned wall surfaces and floors, and objects, but they didn't
clean interiors of closets, cabinets or drawers, because the EPA
protocol excluded those places. And they didn't remove the HVAC units
from the walls to get at the contamination behind them that had
penetrated from outdoors.
When the cleanup crew left at the end of the day, I looked down at
the door jam and saw a large clump of dust, fallen from around the same
doorway where independent testing had found the asbestos.
And it stands to reason that dust was left behind in hard to reach
places. The cleanup protocol had no provision for inclusion of window
tracks, so my sliding windows were not removed from their tracks, and
the dust reservoirs were left untouched.
That has ramifications to this day. The exterior of my windows are
depressingly dirty, but they must be removed from their tracks in order
for the exteriors to be cleaned. Removal of them for standard cleanup
may well re-contaminate my apartment with underlying dust deposits; if
dust is still there, it may be seeping into my apartment slowly
Six months after the EPA cleanup of my apartment I had testing done
again, for asbestos, lead and numerous heavy metal analytes. While
asbestos was found in a low level in one window well, lead was found to
be elevated in both window wells and in one of them, just below the
cutoff point for which immediate lead remediation would have been
required. To quote the written report on the finding of heavy metals,
``The heavy metal sampling revealed the presence of various heavy
metals found in the apartment. Published standards for acceptable
levels of heavy metals on surfaces within the space do not exist.
Standards have not been developed because the presence of most of these
contaminants is neither a normal nor an acceptable condition in
commercial or residential space.''
It is now 2007. Is the air safe to breathe? No one knows and the
newly devised cleanup plan is as poor as the last. Members, I implore
you to see to it we get the science based, effective cleanup we so
desperately need and thank you for reading my testimony.
Senator Clinton. Thank you very much for your very thorough
and informative testimony.
I want to turn now to David Newman. I want to thank Mr.
Newman for your work on the EPA World Trade Center Expert
Technical Review Panel, and for all of your efforts to address
these important and difficult issues in New York.
STATEMENT OF DAVID M. NEWMAN, M.A., M.S., NEW YORK COMMITTEE
FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH
Mr. Newman. Thank you. Good afternoon, Chairperson Clinton
and Senator Lautenberg. My name is David Newman. I am an
industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for
Occupational Safety and Health. I also had the privilege of
serving on the EPA World Trade Center Expert Technical Review
The attacks of September 11, 2001, produced not only an
initial catastrophic loss of life but also a lingering
environmental disaster, with adverse health consequences for
responders at Ground Zero as well as for workers and residents
in a much larger geographic area. Toxic contaminants were
dispersed over a wide area of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn and
beyond. We now know that those caught in the dust cloud and/or
those responding at the World Trade Center site in the first
hours or days have higher incidences and greater severities of
health impacts. Presumably the intensity and duration of
exposure and lack of respiratory protection were significant
These early exposures were unavoidable. However, EPA's
inappropriately reassuring pronouncements that the air was safe
to breathe were counter-productive to efforts at implementation
of respiratory protection programs by employers and counter-
productive to respirator use by rescue recovery and cleanup
workers. EPA's actions contributed to unnecessary exposures to
toxic contaminants by thousands of workers and volunteers.
Similarly, EPA's risk communications served as disincentives to
landlords, employers and Government agencies regarding the
suitability of conducing indoor environmental testing and
The failure of EPA to provide environmental assessment and
cleanup in commercial and government buildings, coupled with
the Agency's limited and inadequate sampling and cleanup in
residences, is likely to have subjected area workers and area
residents to additional unnecessary and unavoidable exposures.
Because EPA contended for the first 8 months that it had no
legal responsibility for addressing indoor contaminants,
sampling and remediation efforts during that time occurred only
on a limited, haphazard and often ineffectual basis. The single
EPA indoor cleanup effort was modest, limited to residences and
of questionable effectiveness and scientific merit. The current
EPA program fundamentally replicates the prior program and
disregards virtually all of the recommendations of the members
of the WTC Panel. This program, like its predecessor, is
technically and scientifically flawed, and is unlikely to
adequately identify or cleanup 9/11 contaminants if and where
they still exist.
The geographic boundaries of the current program are
arbitrary and not scientifically determined. EPA used aerial
photographs of debris deposition to establish the boundaries.
However, aerial photographs do not show the invisible smaller
particles that are of considerable health concern and are
likely to have been dispersed over a wider geographic area. The
World Trade Center Expert Panel strongly recommended that the
program's geographic boundaries be expanded further north in
Manhattan and east into parts of Brooklyn. EPA agreed to do so
in May 2005, but has reneged on that commitment.
There is no scientific justification for the exclusion of
workplaces. There is no evidence that workplaces were impacted
differently or less severely than residences. There is no
evidence that a significant number or any number of workplaces
benefited from employer-conducted cleanup efforts or that such
efforts were effective. Most workplaces were not and will never
be tested or cleaned.
The EPA program is designed to avoid finding contaminants.
It is biased toward sampling cleaner areas and it de-emphasizes
sampling in dirtier areas. It excludes testing in precisely the
spaces that are most likely to harbor residual contaminants,
such as mechanical ventilation systems and ceiling plenums.
This is problematic for two reasons. First, maintenance workers
regularly access these spaces and inadvertently disturb settled
dust, resuspending it into the air, where it is available for
inhalation by workers and tenants. Second, contaminants in the
mechanical ventilation system can lie dormant indefinitely. If
they are disturbed at a later date by maintenance activities or
other causes, the ventilation system will provide a very
efficient mechanism for distribution of contaminants throughout
occupied indoor spaces.
The EPA program, the current program, diverges
significantly from established regulatory and best work
practices. The plan establishes different triggers for cleanup
of asbestos in different parts of residences. It permits higher
levels of asbestos to remain on top of bookcases or behind
large objects of furniture. It is ill-advised to remove
asbestos from the living room floor and allow it to remain
behind the refrigerator. City and State asbestos regulations
require that all areas of a contaminated space be cleaned to a
single protective standard.
The potential consequences of these shortcomings are
worrisome. Scientists may received skewed data on the extent of
geographic dispersion of 9/11 contaminants. Residents may
receive inaccurate assessments of the presence or absence of 9/
11 contaminants in their living spaces, and may receive
inadequately supported assurances of safety. Workers and
employers will continue to lack effective access to
environmental testing and clean-up.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Newman follows:]
Statement of David M. Newman, M.A., M.S., New York Committee for
Occupational Safety and Health
Good morning, Chairperson Clinton, Ranking Member Craig, and other
members of the Superfund and Environmental Health Subcommittee. Thank
you for this opportunity to present testimony. My name is David Newman.
I am an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for
Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). NYCOSH is a nongovernmental,
nonprofit organization that has provided technical assistance and
comprehensive training in occupational safety and health to unions,
employers, government agencies, and community organizations for over 25
The attacks of September 11, 2001 produced not only an initial
catastrophic loss of life at the World Trade Center (WTC) site, but
also a lingering environmental disaster, with adverse health
consequences for responders at Ground Zero as well as for workers and
residents in a much larger geographic area. Because we may
unfortunately be faced with a similar situation again, it is imperative
to examine and learn from government efforts to protect public and
worker health in 9/11 response efforts.
Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and continuing to
this day, NYCOSH, in partnership with the National Disaster Ministries
of the United Church of Christ, has worked closely with unions,
employers, and community and tenant organizations at Ground Zero and
throughout Lower Manhattan. This work has included outdoor and indoor
environmental sampling, technical assistance with the design or
evaluation of sampling, cleanup, and re-occupancy protocols and with
mechanical ventilation and filtration issues. Within days of 9/11,
NYCOSH produced and distributed the first fact sheets describing
respiratory hazards at Ground Zero and outlining appropriate
respiratory protection. We provided technical assistance to unions at,
under, and around Ground Zero. NYCOSH, in collaboration with the Queens
College Center for the Biology of Natural Systems and the Latin
American Workers Project, operated a mobile medical unit near Ground
Zero which provided medical screenings to hundreds of immigrant day
laborers engaged in the cleanup of contaminated offices and residences.
We also provided respirators to these cleanup workers, along with
changeout filter cartridges, fit-testing, and training in proper
respirator use. NYCOSH also trained additional hundreds of Lower
Manhattan workers about 9/11-related occupational and environmental
health issues. NYCOSH continues to work closely with the health care
centers of excellence and with unions, employers, and tenant and
community organizations to ensure that their constituents are informed
about and have access to appropriate medical care for 9/11 health
In addition, I had the privilege of serving on the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) World Trade Center Expert
Technical Review Panel. I also served on the Exposure Assessment
Working Group of the World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical
Screening Program and on the Advisory Board of Columbia University's
Mailman School of Public Health World Trade Center Evacuation Study. I
currently serve on the Community Advisory Committee of the World Trade
Center Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital and on the
Labor Advisory Committee of the New York City Department of Health and
Mental Hygiene's World Trade Center Health Registry.
My testimony will focus on five issues:
1. Whether the data available to EPA at the time of the 9/11
attacks and during subsequent recovery operations indicated a potential
for elevated risk from environmental exposures;
2. Whether the actions of EPA were consistent with regulatory
requirements for risk assessment and protection of human health;
3. Whether EPA's test and clean programs provide effective
assessment and remediation of indoor environmental contaminants;
4. Whether exposure to 9/11 contaminants resulted in harm to human
health, and, if so, whether this harm was avoidable; and
5. What lessons have been, or remain to be, learned from EPA's 9/11
response and recovery efforts.
NYCOSH is well situated to comment on these issues. In addition to
our 9/11 efforts, we have provided training and technical assistance on
respiratory protection, hazard assessment and control, confined space
entry, and hazardous waste operations and emergency response, among
other topics, to employers, unions, government agencies, and community-
based organizations for several decades, often in collaboration with
OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH), the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences
(NIEHS), the New York State Department of Labor, the New York City
Department of Environmental Protection, and the New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
1. What data were available to EPA at the time of the 9/11 attacks
and during subsequent recovery operations? Did these data indicate a
potential for elevated risk to human health from environmental
exposures?--Although the chemical composition and extent of dispersion
of WTC dust remain poorly characterized, the current scientific
literature is unambiguous as to its general nature and scope.
Contaminants were dispersed over a wide area of Lower Manhattan and
Brooklyn, and for ``miles beyond.'' Hundreds of contaminants have been
identified in air, dust, and bulk samples.1,2,3 Toxic
contaminants of concern include asbestos, PCBs (polychlorinated
biphenyls), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), manmade vitreous
fibers, dioxins, volatile organic compounds, crystalline silica,
pulverized glass shards, highly alkaline concrete dust, and lead,
mercury, and other heavy metals.
Credible, substantive data that indicated the presence of toxic
substances in significant quantities at the WTC site were readily
available to EPA prior to and on September 11, 2001.
Prior to and on 9/11, information on the documented presence of
toxic substances at the WTC site was available in government databases
that itemize storage of hazardous raw materials, as per the hazardous
chemical storage reporting requirements of the federal Emergency
Planning and Community Right to Know Act.4 These data,
readily available at the time, indicated at a minimum the probable
presence of barium, lead, chloroform, chlordane, carbon tetrachloride,
cadmium, chromium, mercury, hydrogen sulfide, arsenic, and other toxic
raw materials at the offices of the United States Customs Service, 6
World Trade Center, and of mercury, tetrachloroethylene, PCBs, arsenic,
ethane, and other toxic raw materials at the offices of the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey, 1 World Trade Center. The purpose
of the hazardous raw materials databases is precisely to facilitate
safe emergency response and effective containment and cleanup in the
event of an unanticipated chemical release.
Additional information on hazardous in-place building materials and
office furnishings was widely known in the regulatory and public health
communities. Knowledge and use of this information was a prerequisite
to appropriate preliminary risk assessment, design of safe and
effective work methods, and selection of protective equipment,
An estimated 400 or more tons of asbestos had been utilized in
sprayed-on fireproofing during the construction of the WTC
towers.5,6 Additional unknown amounts of asbestos-containing
material were used in pipe insulation. The extensive use of asbestos at
the WTC site was well documented prior to September 11, 2001. In 1971,
while the WTC was still under construction, New York City passed Local
Law 49, which banned the use of sprayed-on fireproofing that contained
asbestos, effective February 25, 1972. Application of structural
fireproofing at the WTC continued with non-asbestos-based
materials.7 The 1993 bombing of the WTC again raised the
issue of inadvertent releases of WTC asbestos during disaster events,
and some WTC asbestos was abated (removed). Thus, the regulatory
agencies were without doubt cognizant of the potential for the release
of hundreds of thousands of pounds of asbestos into the ambient air
during the collapse of the WTC towers on September 11, 2001.
Further essential, albeit imprecise, information about the
potential for the release of additional toxic substances should have
been intuitive to any environmental or occupational health
professional. For example, computers and computer components contain
significant amounts of lead.8 It can be conservatively
estimated that there were greater than 10,000personal computers in the
WTC complex, each containing 4 or more pounds of lead, as well as
numerous mainframe computers and servers. Consequently, it is likely
that at least 40,000 pounds of lead were released into the general
environment on 9/11, and very possibly a substantially larger amount.
Similarly, fluorescent light bulbs contain tiny but environmentally
significant amounts of mercury.9 Estimates of the amount of
mercury in a single bulb range from 3 milligrams to 21 milligrams. The
Port Authority acknowledges the presence of 500,000 fluorescent light
bulbs in the WTC complex.10 It is therefore possible that
the amount of mercury released from fluorescent light bulbs only (and
not including additional sources of mercury such as electric switches)
ranged from 3 to 23 pounds. This is the approximate equivalent of 8% of
the total daily mercury emissions from all coal-fired utility boilers
in the United States or 26% of the daily mercury emissions from all
municipal waste incinerators.11
Environmental sampling results obtained by or available to EPA
subsequent to September 11 indicated the presence of toxic substances
at levels of concern at Ground Zero as well as at other locations in
Lower Manhattan, both outdoors and indoors.
Early environmental sampling data by EPA confirmed that asbestos
was a constituent of WTC dust, at levels of concern. The EPA website
posted data for 143 bulk samples of dust collected in Lower Manhattan,
outside of the 16-acre collapse site. Asbestos was detected in 76% of
the samples. Twenty-six percent of the samples contained asbestos at
levels between 1.1% and 4.49%--i.e., at levels between 110% and 449% of
the level at which legal requirements are triggered. Most of EPA's
outdoor air samples found relatively low concentrations of asbestos or
no asbestos above the detection limit of the sampling, but the EPA
website listed at least 25 12-hour samples, obtained at 10 separate
locations, that exceeded the EPA clearance standard established under
the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, the benchmark that EPA was
using for 9/11 asbestos measurements.
Additionally, 12 of 21 personal air samples obtained in September
2001 by the U.S. Public Health Service from workers sifting WTC debris
at the Staten Island landfill exceeded the OSHA Permissible Exposure
Limit for asbestos.12 Sixty percent of asbestos air samples
collected at Ground Zero by the International Union of Operating
Engineers' National Hazmat Program exceeded the EPA clearance
standard.13 Twenty-seven percent of 177 bulk samples
initially collected by EPA and OSHA at Ground Zero were greater than 1%
asbestos, the level at which legal requirements are
triggered.14 Early independent air monitoring in two Lower
Manhattan apartments found significantly elevated indoor levels of
asbestos, including results 2 to 5 times the EPA 9/11 asbestos
clearance level in one apartment and 89 to 151 times the clearance
level in the other apartment.15
EPA test results for outdoor sampling for dioxin showed
``unambiguous elevation'' when compared to typical urban background
levels. An EPA report noted:
the concentrations to which individuals could potentially be
exposed . . . within and near the WTC site found through the latter
part of November are likely the highest ambient concentrations that
have ever been reported. [emphasis added]16
These findings indicated that workers and residents who returned to
areas that were reopened to the public as safe one week after 9/11 were
potentially exposed to concentrations of dioxin ``nearly 6 times the
highest dioxin level ever recorded in the U.S.'' The findings also
indicated that the dioxin concentrations to which rescue and recovery
workers were potentially exposed were between 100 and 1,500 times
higher than the levels of dioxin typically found in urban
In another example, benzene was detected at Ground Zero in 57 of 96
air samples, at levels from 5 to 86,000 parts per billion (ppb). (The
OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) for benzene exposure averaged
over 8 hours is 1,000 ppb. The OSHA short term exposure limit (STEL)
for benzene exposure averaged over a 15-minute period is 5,000 ppb.)
Even during November, readings exceeded the OSHA levels in half
the tests conducted. . . . On November 8, an EPA grab sample at the
North Tower plume detected 180,000 ppb of benzene--180 times above
[sic] the OSHA limit. Even as late as January 7, benzene readings were
as high as 5,300 ppb.18
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported the results of
its WTC environmental studies to government response teams as early as
September 18, 2001. USGS found that steel beams from the WTC site were
coated with fireproofing containing chrysotile asbestos at
concentrations up to 20%. It reported that in the ``area around the WTC
. . . potentially asbestiform minerals might be present in
concentrations of a few percent to tens of percent'' and may occur ``in
a discontinuous pattern radially in west, north, and easterly
directions perhaps at distances greater than 3/4 kilometer from ground
zero.'' USGS also found that WTC dusts ``can be quite alkaline,''
reaching a pH of 11.8. The agency warned government response teams that
``cleanup of dusts and the WTC debris should be done with appropriate
respiratory protection and dust control measures.''19
2. Were the actions of EPA consistent with regulatory requirements
for risk assessment and protection of human health?--Multiple federal
statutes have applicability to the protection of public health during
catastrophic environmental emergencies. The applicability of statutory
requirements to disaster response efforts and to subsequent cleanup
operations and the uses of agency discretionary power in the
application of legal standards are central to assessing governmental
response to 9/11.
EPA is clearly required to protect the public health against
exposure to toxic environmental contaminants associated with
EPA has legal authority and responsibility to respond to a
hazardous substance release that presents or has the potential to
present an imminent and substantial danger to public health. EPA is
required to assume lead authority with regard to issues of
environmental health by the National Contingency Plan, the National
Response Plan, and Presidential Decision Directive 62 of 1998.
The National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants
(NESHAPS), section 112 of the Clean Air Act, establishes standards for
air pollutants that may cause fatalities or serious, irreversible, or
incapacitating illness.20,}21 Hazardous air pollutants
regulated under the Clean Air Act are also regulated as hazardous
substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), known as Superfund. The
National Contingency Plan (NCP), part of CERCLA, is the federal plan
for responding to hazardous substance releases. The NCP assigns the
authority to respond to the release of hazardous substances to EPA. In
the event of a hazardous release, the NCP requires that the release
site be assessed to characterize the source and type of the release,
the pathways of exposure, and the nature and magnitude of the threat to
public health. In addition, EPA is authorized to ``enter any vessel,
facility, establishment or other place, property, or location . . . and
conduct, complete, operate, and maintain any response actions. . . . ''
Further, ``the NCP applies to and is in effect when the Federal
Response Plan and some or all of its Emergency Support Functions (ESFs)
The National Response Plan (NRP) mandates a comprehensive response
to terrorism incidents. (The Federal Response Plan23
preceded the National Response Plan, was in effect on September 11,
2001, and was substantively similar to the NRP.) The NRP establishes
protocols to protect the health and safety of the public, responders,
and recovery workers. National Response Plan Emergency Support Function
#10, the Oil and Hazardous Materials Response Annex, assigns explicit
responsibility to EPA as both the primary agency and the emergency
support function coordinator in response to an actual or potential
discharge or uncontrolled release of hazardous materials.24
Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 62 names EPA as the lead
agency for responding to the release of hazardous materials in a
terrorist attack and gives EPA specific responsibility for indoor
remediation. 25,}26 Shortly after 9/11, then--EPA
Administrator Christine Whitman confirmed EPA's responsibility under
PDD 62: ``Under the provisions of PDD 62 . . . EPA is assigned lead
responsibility for cleaning up buildings and other sites contaminated
by chemical or biological agents as a result of an act of
EPA's response actions were not consistent with its legal
obligations to protect the health of the public against exposure to
outdoor and indoor toxic environmental contaminants associated with a
EPA's 9/11 response efforts were predicated on the agency's
contention that environmental regulations were not applicable to
natural or technological disasters or to terrorist
incidents.28 EPA minimized the issue of hazardous waste and
chose not to consider the WTC site as either a Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act (RCRA)29 hazardous waste site or a
Superfund site, even though the collapse and combustion of the WTC
``must have released chemicals orders of magnitude times the reporting
thresholds.''30,}31 According to an EPA senior policy
analyst, this was the first major chemical or hazardous waste release
in 20 years for which EPA did not conduct a site characterization for
environmental hazards and risks.32 In addition, the agency
did not ensure that clearance tests were conducted at the conclusion of
the waste and debris removal project to confirm that environmental
contaminants had been effectively removed from the WTC site, and no
such tests were conducted.33
EPA provided limited, and sometimes incorrect and hazardous,
technical guidance to the impacted public. EPA press releases counseled
residential and business tenants to clean their indoor spaces using
``appropriate'' equipment, following ``recommended'' and ``proper''
procedures, without defining these terms.34 EPA's technical
advice sometimes contradicted regulatory requirements and even common
sense. In one instance EPA advised that ``if dust or debris from the
World Trade Center site has entered homes or offices, people should be
sure to clean thoroughly and avoid inhaling dust while doing
so.''35 The same press release referred readers to the
website of the New York City Department of Health for further technical
guidance. That website advised ``residents and workers returning to
homes and offices in Lower Manhattan'' to clean up WTC dust (i.e.,
asbestos and other toxic substances, in many cases) with wet rags and
HEPA vacuum cleaners, in violation of federal and city regulations. It
further advised that respiratory protection was not necessary so long
as these ``guidelines'' were followed.36 The report of the
EPA Inspector General ultimately concluded that advice such as this
``may have increased the long-term health risks for those [tenants] who
cleaned WTC dust.''37
EPA's public statements mischaracterized or ignored sampling
results. Its September 18 announcement that the ``air is safe to
breathe''38 was not supported by the available
data.39 EPA risk communication statements were altered to
conform to political directives from the White House. ``Guidance for
cleaning indoor spaces and information about the potential health
effects from WTC debris were not included in EPA's issued press
releases. . . . Reassuring information was added . . . and cautionary
information was deleted'' after intervention by the White House Council
on Environmental Quality.40 Other government agencies also
issued inaccurate risk communication statements. EPA's unsupported
assurances of lack of risk had the unfortunate effect of giving a green
light to employers and workers not to use respiratory protection and to
landlords, employers, and government agencies that remediation of
contaminants was not necessary.
For eight months after 9/11, EPA contended that it had no legal
responsibility for assessing or addressing indoor environmental
contamination.41,}42 Indoor environmental testing and
remediation in common spaces were left to building owners; testing and
remediation of private spaces were left to commercial and residential
tenants.43,}44 Because government financial assistance,
reoccupancy guidelines, oversight, and enforcement were not provided,
private environmental sampling and remediation efforts occurred only on
an occasional, haphazard, limited, and often ineffectual basis. The
single government-sponsored indoor cleanup effort that ultimately took
place, EPA's 2002--2003 ``test or clean'' program, was modest, non-
mandatory, limited to residences, and of questionable effectiveness and
scientific and technical merit. Only 18% of eligible downtown
apartments were cleaned or tested.45 Approximately 1,500
Lower Manhattan buildings were excluded, including all schools,
hospitals, firehouses, workplaces, businesses, and commercial and
government buildings--even City Hall. Most of Chinatown and other
impacted communities were also excluded. The failure of EPA to require
or even encourage indoor environmental assessments, and cleanup where
warranted, in commercial and government buildings, coupled with the
agency's limited and inadequate sampling and cleanup in residential
spaces, is likely to have subjected area workers and residents to
unnecessary and avoidable exposures.
3. Will EPA's December 2006 Lower Manhattan Indoor Dust Test and
Clean Program provide effective assessment and remediation of indoor
environmental contaminants?--The current EPA test and clean program
disregards virtually all of the recommendations and concerns expressed
by members of the EPA WTC Expert Technical Review Panel in its 21
months of deliberations. The current program fundamentally replicates
the ineffective 2002-2003 Residential Dust Cleanup Program. This
program, like its predecessor, is technically and scientifically flawed
and is unlikely to provide any significant public health or scientific
benefit. It is unlikely to adequately identify or clean up 9/11
contaminants if and where they exist. It is probable that it will
under-report any residual 9/11 contamination. The potential
consequences of these shortcomings are worrisome. Scientists may
receive skewed data on the extent of geographic dispersion of 9/11
contaminants. Residents may receive inaccurate assessments of the
presence or absence of 9/11 contaminants in their living spaces and may
receive inadequately supported assurances of safety. Workers and
employers will continue to lack effective access to environmental
testing or cleanup.
Among the many significant deficiencies of the current plan are the
Insufficient financial resources are allocated for testing
or cleaning, if warranted, of potentially affected residences and
workplaces. According to EPA and FEMA, funds allocated for EPA's 2002-
2003 program were in excess of $25 million, while funds allocated for
the current program are capped at approximately $7 million. The
geographic boundaries and eligibility criteria for the plans are
virtually identical. That is, the current program is funded at a level
approximately 28% of the prior program, yet is charged with providing
sampling and cleanup in 100% of the geographic area served by the prior
The geographic boundaries of the program are arbitrarily
determined. EPA has cited images and mapping results from aerial
photographs taken on September 13, 2001 as the basis for the geographic
boundaries of the current program. However, EPA misinterprets or
misuses that data, which actually indicate the ``probable'' and
``possible'' deposition of WTC dust and debris over a larger geographic
area than that included in the current sampling program.46
These data themselves are of limited scientific utility as they rely
entirely on detection of visible dust. The Environmental Photographic
Interpretation Center (EPIC) report acknowledges that its analysis is
limited to ``ground dust/debris deposition as an aggregate (paper,
pulverized concrete and wall board, larger building materials,
etc.).''47 Smaller particles that are invisible to the naked
eye or to the camera lens, such as PM10, PM2.5,
and asbestos fibers, are likely to have been dispersed over a wider
geographic area and are of considerable health concern. These are not
addressed by these data. The EPIC report notes that ``it is possible
that dust/debris may extend beyond the boundaries as delineated in this
report.''48 Members of the EPA WTC Panel strongly
recommended that the program's geographic boundaries be expanded
further north in Manhattan, including all of Chinatown, and east into
parts of Brooklyn. EPA agreed to do so in May 2005 but has reneged on
that commitment in its current program.49
There is no scientific or legal justification for the
exclusion of workplaces and places of business from the current
program. EPA has not offered any evidence demonstrating that workplaces
were impacted differently or less severely than residences. I believe
no such data exist and no such assertion could be plausibly made. Nor
has EPA presented any data that indicate that a significant number (or
any number) of workplaces benefitted from employer-conducted and -
financed cleanup efforts, or that these efforts were effective. Because
the EPA program leaves employers to bear the financial and technical
burden of testing and cleanup, it is likely that workplaces which have
not yet been privately tested or cleaned will never be tested or
Neither OSHA nor NIOSH can effectively address the issue of 9/11
contaminants in workplaces. Comments at the July 12, 2005 meeting of
the EPA WTC Expert Technical Review Panel by representatives from OSHA
and NIOSH made clear that while these agencies will continue to be
responsive to queries from workers, unions, and employers, neither
agency engages in or funds remediation of workplace contaminants. OSHA,
if it finds violations of OSHA standards, may require employers to
engage in cleanup, or in other protective measures short of cleanup, at
employer expense. NIOSH may recommend but cannot require remediation,
nor can it fund remediation. It is possible that indoor environmental
conditions in downtown workplaces may not violate OSHA Permissible
Exposure Limits (PELs), or that there may be no applicable OSHA
standards (as is the case for PAHs), while at the same time they may
exceed EPA benchmarks for settled 9/11 dust. In such situations, OSHA
could not require remediation. Thus, contamination at levels that would
compel remediation in residences will be allowed to remain in
Because it de-emphasizes testing in indoor areas that are
most likely to harbor residual contaminants and emphasizes testing in
areas that are most likely to have been routinely and repeatedly
cleaned, the EPA program has a built-in selection bias toward sampling
cleaner areas. It is designed to avoid finding residual contaminants.
The nature and extent of residual indoor WTC-derived contamination,
if any, is unknown at this point in time. Residual indoor
contamination, if present, will most likely be found in spaces that
have been subjected to the least disturbance. Typically, these spaces
include: infrequently cleaned areas such as those behind refrigerators,
above suspended ceilings, and in cable chases; porous materials such as
carpets and drapes that act as reservoirs or ``sinks'' for settled
particulates; and ``dead spots'' where deposition occurs in mechanical
ventilation systems, such as in areas of low velocity and at bends in
high velocity areas in ducts.50
The current EPA program does include testing on porous materials
like carpets and in infrequently cleaned spaces behind furniture and
equipment such as refrigerators. However, it excludes without
justification testing in what it mistakenly labels ``inaccessible
spaces,'' i.e, mechanical ventilation systems, ceiling plenums, cable
chases, etc. This is problematic for two reasons.
First, so-called inaccessible spaces are accessed by maintenance
and utility workers on a regular basis. These workers engage in
activities that may disturb settled dust and resuspend it in the air,
where it becomes available for inhalation both by the workers and by
tenants. Although a particular ``inaccessible space'' may not be
accessed regularly, workers routinely access these kinds of spaces
repeatedly over the course of every work day.
Second, the ability of a mechanical ventilation system to capture
contaminants in the dead spots of the duct work is well known. These
settled particulates will lie dormant and cannot be identified or
measured by sampling that is conducted outside the mechanical
ventilation system. However, if the settled particulates are disturbed
at a later date by maintenance activities or other causes, the
mechanical ventilation system can provide a very efficient mechanism
for the distribution of contaminants throughout occupied indoor spaces.
The EPA program diverges significantly from established
regulatory and best work practices in industrial hygiene and
environmental remediation. For example, the plan establishes different
benchmarks, or triggers, for cleanup of asbestos in different parts of
residences. It permits higher levels of asbestos contamination to
remain in ``infrequently accessed areas'' such as ``out of reach
shelving''51 or ``on top, beneath, or behind large objects
of furniture such as bookcases.''52 By contrast,
city53 and state54 asbestos regulations
explicitly and appropriately require that all areas of a contaminated
space be cleaned to a single protective standard.
4. Did exposure to WTC-derived contaminants result in harm to human
health, and was this exposure and harm avoidable?--Within days of the
attacks, EPA declared Lower Manhattan's air ``safe to
breathe.''55 EPA maintained until recently that ``short-term
health effects dissipated for most once the fires were put out [and]
there is little concern about any long-term health
effects.''56 Unfortunately, there is considerable evidence
to the contrary. It is now well-established that a large and increasing
number of people who were exposed to 9/11 contaminants, primarily
rescue and recovery workers but also area workers and residents, are
suffering serious and persistent adverse health outcomes.
The incidence and persistence of 9/11-induced respiratory illness
among response workers and area workers is extensively documented in
the scientific literature, including among rescue, recovery, and
firefighters,59,}60,}61,}62 transit workers,63
and immigrant day laborer cleanup workers at buildings outside Ground
Zero.64 Although there is no question that, in general,
those working on the pile experienced more severe exposures and health
impacts than did community residents, students, and workers, it is of
note that adverse health impacts have also been documented among these
Because Ground Zero workers and other exposed populations may have
been exposed at varying levels to a robust array of carcinogens,
including asbestos, dioxins, silica, benzene, PAHs, and PCBs, there is
concern for the potential development of late-emerging
cancers.70 It is as yet unknown whether or when 9/11-derived
exposures will produce late-emerging diseases, but it is prudent and
scientifically appropriate to anticipate the possibility. While the
latency period for solid tumors is 10 to 50 years, the latency period
for hematologic and lymphatic malignancies can be as short as 4 to 5
years.71 Although neither the World Trade Center Medical
Monitoring Program nor the scientific literature has yet reported the
occurrence of 9/11-related cancers, the Monitoring Program has begun
the process of verification of self-reported cases among responder and
recovery worker patients.72
We know now that there is an association between the chronology of
firefighters' 9/11-related exposures and the severity of their adverse
health effects; i.e., those caught in the dust cloud and/or those
responding at the WTC site in the first hours or days tend to have
higher incidences and greater severity of health impacts. Presumably,
the intensity and duration of exposure and the lack of access to
appropriate respiratory protection were significant factors in this
association. These early exposures were unavoidable. However, EPA's
early and inappropriately reassuring pronouncements that ``the air is
safe to breathe'' were counterproductive to efforts at implementation
of respiratory protection programs by employers and respirator use by
rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers. EPA's actions thus contributed
to the unnecessary and avoidable exposures to toxic WTC-derived
contaminants incurred by thousands of workers and volunteers.
Similarly, EPA's risk communications served as disincentives to
landlords, employers, and government agencies regarding the suitability
of conducting indoor environmental testing and remediation of
contaminants, as appropriate. The failure of EPA to provide, require,
or even encourage indoor environmental assessments, and cleanup where
warranted, in commercial and government buildings, coupled with the
agency's limited and inadequate sampling and cleanup in residential
spaces, is likely to have subjected area workers and residents to
additional unnecessary and avoidable exposures.
5. What lessons have been, or remain to be, learned from the 9/11
response and recovery efforts?--Less than four years after the
disastrous events of September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina struck the
Gulf Coast. Rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts there sadly were
hampered by a failure to learn from the WTC experience. In October
2005, a group of more than 100 of the Nation's foremost labor,
religious, environmental, community, public health and public interest
organizations and more than 100 academic, medical, religious and public
health leaders, including some of the nation's top experts in the
fields of occupational and environmental medicine and industrial
hygiene, called on Congress to give the highest priority to the
protection of the health of cleanup workers and of the public at large
during cleanup efforts.73 Coupled with the recommendations
of the report of the EPA Office of the Inspector General,74
the following principles for disaster response, adapted in part from
the call, provide a sound basis for lessons that, unfortunately, have
yet to be learned:
Presume contamination until proven otherwise.
Given the wide range and toxic nature of contaminants to which
workers, volunteers, and residents may be exposed, it is imperative
that work areas be presumed to be contaminated and that appropriate
precautionary measures be implemented until the work environment is
demonstrated to be safe.
Implement the National Response Plan provisions for worker
and community environmental testing and monitoring.
The worker and community environmental testing and monitoring
provisions of the National Response Plan must be followed closely. They
provide for hazard identification, environmental sampling, personal
exposure monitoring, collecting and managing exposure data, development
of site-specific safety plans, immunization and prophylaxis, and
medical surveillance, medical monitoring and psychological support.
Enforce all OSHA and EPA regulations.
Environmental and occupational health standards must be strictly
enforced. We are distressed that OSHA has defined its role in Katrina
response, as in 9/11, as advisory rather than enforcement.
Assess the hazards.
EPA should conduct comprehensive environmental sampling to
characterize the nature and extent of environmental hazards. NIOSH and
OSHA must conduct a comprehensive assessment of the hazards posed to
recovery workers. Hazard assessment should include evaluation of
environmental hazards contaminants originating in external sources, in-
place building materials, biological agents, and other potential
sources. Environmental monitoring should be ongoing. Sampling results
should be accessible to the public in a timely manner. Toxic materials
should be catalogued, evaluated and tested, and any known or potential
releases contained. Failure to act will threaten returning residents
and workers and will increase long-term cleanup costs as toxic
substances spread to larger areas.
Train and protect cleanup workers.
All cleanup workers (public and private sector, paid and unpaid)
should receive the appropriate OSHA-required training and equipment for
protection against the hazards to which they may be exposed. OSHA
should specify the minimum training that must be provided to workers
engaged in clean-up and recovery. Training may include that which is
required under OSHA's Hazard Communication, Respiratory Protection,
Personal Protective Equipment, and Hazardous Waste Operations and
Emergency Response standards. Protective equipment may include
respirators and protective clothing and equipment.
Provide medical surveillance.
Provision must be made for early detection and treatment of
occupational, environmental, and psychological illnesses. To ignore the
medical needs of potentially exposed workers and residents is asking
them to be guinea pigs in a long-term experiment the consequences of
which remain unknown. All public and private sector rescue, response,
and cleanup workers, including volunteers, should be entered into a
centralized database to facilitate medical surveillance.
Protect vulnerable workers.
Special consideration must be given to protection of immigrant and
temporary workers. In 9/11 response efforts, immigrant and temporary
workers were the workers least likely to be provided with proper
training and respiratory protection, and were the workers least likely
to have medical insurance. As a result, they incurred high rates of
illness without having access to medical treatment.
Adopt uniform reoccupancy standards.
EPA must ensure that a protective health and safety standard for
reoccupancy applies uniformly to all communities and also is sensitive
to the needs of vulnerable populations. EPA has indicated that it will
permit local authorities to determine reoccupancy criteria, but it is
critical to ensure that all reoccupancy occurs according to standards
that are adequately protective of public health.
Thank you for your concern on these matters.
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Senator Clinton. Thank you very much, Mr. Newman.
I want to give you a chance to respond to the assertions
made by the members of the first panel. Because clearly, your
experience, your expertise and your testimony today directly
contradict many of the claims that were made by the panelists,
and I would like to ask you to respond to what you heard this
Mr. Newman. Thank you. Let me start with two areas.
First, with regard to the comments of Mr. Connaughton, I am
quoting here from, selectively, of course, from a September 13,
2001 e-mail, it is an OSHA e-mail, and it says, ``A conference
call was held this morning with EPA regional and national, as
well as representatives from the White House. They were
concerned about the public understanding of the sample results
that are forthcoming and our ability to reassure them with
respect to air quality. The secondary purpose of the call was
to discuss the financial market and who we can work toward
allowing them into their buildings.''
From a memo of September 28, 2001: ``EPA stated that by
orders of the White House, the EPA web page is not being
updated with current sample results.'' So there are clear
indications that the White House participated in discussions
and decisions as to how to massage the data that was available
to them at that time.
With regard to the ability and responsibility of the EPA to
address the issue of indoor contamination, the National
Contingency Plan is very clear. It assigns the authority to
respond to the release of hazardous substances to EPA. It very
specifically authorizes EPA to enter any vessel, facility,
establishment or other place, property or location and conduct,
complete, operate and maintain any response actions. Further,
the NCP applies to and is in effect when the Federal Response
Plan in some or all of its emergency support functions are
activated. That is, the activation of the Federal or now the
National Response Plan and its emergency support functions does
not override or cancel EPA's responsibility for indoor
contamination. This position was confirmed shortly after 9/11
by testimony given before Congress by then-EPA Administrator
Christine Whitman, who stated, under the provisions of
Presidential Decision Directive 62, EPA is assigned lead
responsibility for cleaning up buildings and other sites
contaminated by chemical or biological agents as a result of an
act of terrorism.
Senator Clinton. I will put into the record the 1998
Presidential Decision Directive, PDD 62, which did task EPA
with the leadership role in cleaning up buildings and other
sites contaminated by chemical or biological agents as a result
of an act of terrorism.
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Senator Clinton. Mr. Newman, GAO's testimony and their
written reports suggest that EPA remains poorly prepared to
address indoor contamination issues. Do you share this view and
what is your view of EPA's state of preparedness?
Mr. Newman. Well, I have to begin my remarks by clarifying
that I do not work for EPA and I am not privy to internal
discussions or documents that may exist within EPA. But if we
use as a yardstick for lessons learned a comparison of EPA's
sampling plans in 2002 and EPA's sampling plans in 2007, I see
little, if any, significant change that indicates any lessons
Senator Clinton. Mr. Newman, would you describe for the
Committee and the record your work on the Expert Technical
Review Panel, how you thought that the EPA was responding and
at what point the panel disbanded and for what reason?
Mr. Newman. The broad mandate, as you know, of the WTC
Expert Technical Review Panel was to assess any remaining
health risks posed from the events of 9/11 and to determine
appropriate approaches to deal with questions of public health.
The panel, I think, in my opinion, was faced with three major
broad goals. No. 1, to assess the extent, if any, of remaining
indoor contaminants. No. 2, to devise--and that was through a
sampling plan--and the second was to devise an appropriate
clean-up plan to address any remaining contamination. No. 3, to
address broad issues of public health related to the events of
We engaged in extensive collegial discussion over a lengthy
period of time on these and other issues. The ultimate,
unfortunate result was the determination by EPA to disregard
virtually all of the suggestions and concerns expressed by the
panel, shut down the panel and proceed with a sampling plan
devised by EPA that was not reflective or responsive to the
discussions and recommendations of the panel.
Senator Clinton. At any time, did anyone from EPA advise
you or advise the panel that they were disregarding your
recommendations for financial reasons?
Mr. Newman. The issue of finances was a big and continuing
one throughout the course of the panel's meetings early on. A
number of panel members, including myself but also others,
questioned, asked for some guidance from EPA as to how we were
to structure our discussions with regard to the question of
finances. That is, are we operating under budgetary constraints
in attempting to design a sampling and cleanup program, or are
we to provide the best scientific advice that we were able to
come up with, disregarding any financial constraints. They told
us at the beginning and on several occasions thereafter that we
were to disregard any budgetary constraints.
However, during the course of the panel process, it became
very clear, in fact, the representative from FEMA who sat in an
ex officio position on the panel told Panel members at a Panel
meeting that the budget was in fact pre-determined and limited
to the $7 million remaining in the FEMA fund from the prior
cleanup, at which point we again attempted to enter into some
substantive discussions as to how, should a sampling and
cleanup plan be devised, how budgetary constraints would impact
on the design of that plan. We were again told not to consider
those factors. Then at the very end, as we know today, that
virtually the entire design of the plan is limited precisely by
those budgetary constraints.
Senator Clinton. Thank you, Mr. Newman.
Senator Lautenberg. I won't keep the panel long, Mr.
Chairman. But Mr. Newman and Ms. Lavin, thank you very much for
your testimony. The contradiction to what we heard earlier is a
contrast that has to be noted. It seems to me obvious that
there was an attempt by the Administration to downplay the
risks. You attribute it, Mr. Newman, I think primarily to the
But I think there was some other sinister motive that was
there, and that was to not look like we weren't ready for
anything, that it was done in many ways in an arrogant and
almost boastful manner. When we see that there was any denial
that there was an attempt to influence the press release, it
just doesn't square with what we see. The precautionary
statement, this was in the IG's report. In the draft version of
September 13, 2001, press releases were removed and replaced
with more reassuring statements, for example, second clause of
the caption of the draft, the press release was noted that EPA
was testing for environmental hazards was replaced with a
statement reassuring the public about environmental hazards.
Did you see that in your work on your committee in
assessing what had taken place there? Was there anything
obvious to you that said they just didn't want people to know
what was out there? Let me remove the coloration, you do it
Mr. Newman. The panel did not review or assess EPA's early
risk communications to the public. So with regard to that
aspect of your question, I don't have an answer.
Senator Lautenberg. OK.
Mr. Newman. But the panel did struggle with the broad
mandate of assessing any remaining risks to public health. The
form that that struggle took was, there were many members of
the public who expressed in the public comment period at panel
meetings a desire to not only address the issue of whether
there was any residual contamination and the implementation of
a sampling and cleanup program, but to also investigate the
issue, broader issues of public health from 9/11 with, for
example, the lack, at least initially, the lack of Government
oversight as to the demolition of heavily contaminated high-
rise buildings; the issue of various impacted populations who
were exhibiting adverse health consequences and their inability
to get access to proper medical care; the questions of
additional research and funding for research that was needed.
These issues, which were raised by members of the public during
the meetings as well as by Panel members, including myself and
others, were short-circuited and the panel did not consider
Senator Lautenberg. You said that EPA used a helicopter, if
I understood, to assess the spread of the dust.
Mr. Newman. They used aerial photographs. I don't know if
it was from a helicopter or not.
Senator Lautenberg. How far did any of your research tell
you physically was the spread of the dust from the fallen
Mr. Newman. As a number of people have testified today, we
don't have that data. It is now almost 6 years later. As the
gentleman from GAO testified, there is yet to be a
comprehensive, targeted, science-based assessment of the
geographic extent of the dispersion of World Trade Center
contaminants. So we do not have that answer.
So anybody who gets up here, myself included, and says
either that it was widely dispersed or that it was not widely
dispersed, that is not a science-based statement. We do not
have that data. There is the potential for wider dispersion and
we acknowledge that potential and we are concerned about that.
But in terms of data, we don't have it.
Senator Lautenberg. I would like to ask, how many people
died in the aftermath of 9/11 from their exposure to the dust
and smoke? Have those deaths been officially recognized? Do you
have any evidence to that effect?
Mr. Newman. We have a fairly large number of anecdotally
reported deaths, that is, deaths reported through the media,
deaths reported by family members, et cetera. These are deaths
of people who are, by their exposure history, at and around
Ground Zero, are presumed to have had exposure to 9/11
contaminants. However, in terms of clinically confirmed deaths,
the number is very, very low. We have the recent one that was
referred to by Senator Clinton. We have, of course, Police
Senator Lautenberg. How about the number who have put in
their request for attention to their problems? Respiratory,
people unable to work, there is a substantial number of people
from the fire department who were unable to continue with their
Mr. Newman. Absolutely. In terms of the medical monitoring
programs that exist, that is the World Trade Center Medical
Monitoring Program and the New York City Fire Department
Medical Program, as the two primary in this case, we have tens
of thousands of cases of clinically confirmed, clinically
diagnosed persistent respiratory and other medical conditions,
Senator Lautenberg. Madam Chairman, thanks for conducting
this hearing and for bringing the attention that it deserves to
the public forum. Thank you.
Senator Clinton. Thank you very much, Senator Lautenberg.
Ms. Lavin, I just wanted to thank you for coming to
testify. Also to ask you to describe your experience with the
Bellevue program, because as I said at the very beginning, we
are finally going to be able to provide some Federal support
for the medical treatment program at Bellevue for residents.
That has not been included before. We were able to obtain that
in the last 48 hours, as a part of the appropriations bill.
Would you describe, if you can recall when you first went
there and what the experience there was, and what their
diagnosis and treatment for you has been going forward?
Ms. Lavin. I first went there, I think it was March 2007.
It was February or March, I don't recall the precise date. I am
under the treatment of the Director, Dr. Reibman. So far, I am
very pleased with the program, because it has been specifically
designed, the doctors are coordinated there, and that is really
a key element in treatment of the different symptoms of what
are now known as World Trade Center Syndrome.
So I think it is essential for them to have long-term
funding and I hope that they will get more, because that will
allow them to draw some of the best and the newest doctors, the
Senator Clinton. I thank you for that.
I would like to ask both of you to respond to maybe further
written questions as we review the testimony. It would be
useful to try to help complete the record in that way. I also
want to thank you for representing so many people who have been
afflicted by, in the first instance, their exposures and the
second instance, the failure to accurately describe the toxic
dangers and then to respond to the legitimate health needs that
tens of thousands of people, as Mr. Newman said, are
I am very grateful to everyone who participated in the
hearing, and I want to thank you again, and we will continue
with this, as I said in the beginning. Congressman Nadler will
hold a companion hearing next week to focus on some additional
issues, particularly concerned with the city and the city's
response. So the hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:40 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]