Monday, June 25, 2007

The Battle For Ground Zero, Part 233

We owe the workers at Ground Zero more than being simply the new liquidators. Instead, we get CYA and spreading the blame around by former EPA head Christie Todd Whitman, who was grilled over her agency's handling of events following 9/11, particularly her statements about air quality in the days and weeks following the collapse of the towers.

There are many workers who worked on the pile and in and around Ground Zero who are suffering a variety of respiratory ailments, and many are attributing those ailments to the time spent in and around Ground Zero.

Whitman, of course, denies that the EPA misled the public, and then turns around and claims that others were responsible for sending mixed messages - Rudy Giuliani being one. She claims that Rudy didn't do a good enough job of requiring firefighters and others working at the site to wear protective garb.
Whitman blames former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his staff for not adequately protecting police officers, firefighters and other workers at Ground Zero.

Whitman claims that the city should have made the workers wear respirators. She says her agency called the mayor's staff daily and was frustrated when the workers didn't wear them.

But Giuliani, who is now running for president, disputes Whitman's claim. A deputy mayor of his is calling Whitman's remarks "revisionist at best."
Those working at the pile didn't have access to the respirators in the early going because of the numbers involved, but as work progressed on the site, some workers took to not wearing them because they were hot and uncomfortable. At some point, there is personal responsibility for those at the site, but the government also owes the workers a duty of care that has not been followed.

Whitman also says that she was making distinctions between those working on the Pile and those who lived and worked nearby - as proximity being a key factor in exposure.

The problem is that the EPA did mislead the public about the air quality in Lower Manhattan in the days and months following the attacks. Anyone who walked through the area could not help but note the sickly metallic odor emenating from Ground Zero as the fires continued to burn deep inside the pile and the smoke continued to rise from the ashes for weeks afterwards. The ash and pulverized materials from the collapsing towers covered everything, and scientists are still trying to analyze the materials to determine long term risks and hazards.

The EPA also misled about the small number of samples that showed unsafe levels of asbestos in the air. It turns out that the large number of samples were taken from apartments that had already been decontaminated:
The Government Accountability Office report says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed to disclose that 80 percent of air samples taken to test the safety of 4,000 lower Manhattan apartments were taken after the residences had been professionally decontaminated, The New York Times reported Thursday.
So, based on those numbers, thousands of others living in the area opted not to clean their residences, believing that they were not at risk. Lovely.

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