Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Battle for Ground Zero, Part 211

While human remains have been found over the past few months in the course of clearing out underground utility vaults and then the area of the access road into the Pit, no one appeared to expect large pieces of structural steel from the collapsed Twin Towers.

Yet that's exactly what was found.
The surprising discovery of World Trade Center steel in the past week raises more questions about what was left at ground zero in the cleanup after the 2001 attacks and how the service road was created in the first place.

The steel, found during a dig for human remains that has yielded nearly 300 bones in the past three months, includes two heavy beams that were stacked horizontally in the landfill, as if moved and placed there, a person with direct knowledge of the discovery told The Associated Press. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the findings and insisted on anonymity.

The discovery was confirmed by officials for the city and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the trade center.

The columns were about 18 feet long and perhaps 60 tons each. Officials believe the steel columns, located a week ago just 2 to 3 feet below the surface of the road, were deliberately set there at some point during the cleanup, perhaps to stabilize heavy machinery in use at the time.

Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, who is overseeing the search for remains, declined to speculate on how the steel might have ended up where it did.

Digging was halted in the immediate area surrounding the steel columns until the Port Authority removes the steel. The columns will be put into storage at a hangar at Kennedy International Airport, agency spokesman Steve Coleman said Wednesday. The hangar stores all sorts of artifacts from the trade center, including what was believed to be the last column removed from the site in May 2002.
Did no one notice that some pieces of the towers ended up in the fill used to support the access road? The NYC DDC has much explaining to do and this further brings into question the handling of remains and debris removed from the site.

Cesar Borja, whose son became the very public face of those seeking more aid for Ground Zero workers afflicted by ailments connected with service at Ground Zero, was laid to rest in Queens yesterday.
Borja, who was awaiting a lung transplant, died Tuesday just hours before his son Ceasar attended President Bush's State of the Union address as a guest of Clinton. Ceasar, 21, hopes to meet with Bush to discuss the ongoing health problems of workers who spent time in the World Trade Center rubble after the terrorist attack.

The elder Borja's body was brought into St. Josaphat's Church in the Bayside area by a police honor guard on a brisk winter morning. The officers carried his flag-draped casket into the church as police bagpipers played and one family member collapsed in tears.

"It's so sad, but we are proud for him," said family friend Alicia Orca before the hour-long service began.

Cesar Borja, 52, worked double-shifts three times a week at ground zero, according to his son. The 20-year veteran developed the "World Trade Center cough" shortly after retiring in 2003, and his condition deteriorated until his death from pulmonary fibrosis, the son said.

Tom Carlstrom, a retired EMS worker who also worked at ground zero, was among those who attended.

"It's kind of frustrating," he said outside the funeral. "The government and the city are just not acknowledging what the truth is about what we breathed in down there."
Borja did meet with President Bush, who committed $25 million to health care programs for those suffering from ailments related to service at Ground Zero, and also signed an excuse note for Borja's sister explaining why she was missing class.

OSHA has hit two of the contractors working the Ground Zero site for infractions relating to exposure to toxic dust in the course of the decontamination and deconstruction of the Deutsche Bank building. The fines are minimal, but point to larger problems in assessing health, safety, and risk factors relating to Ground Zero work:
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration quietly has hit two companies with violations for leaving workers exposed while the ruined former Deutsche Bank building on the edge of the site was being cleaned.

The potential fines are minimal - but the act was yet another sign that the federal bureaucracy is acknowledging that even now, Ground Zero is a minefield of poisons.

Demolition contractor John Galt Inc. was cited on Jan. 23 and security company Tyler-Conner Inc. was cited Jan. 17 after OSHA inspectors discovered workers weren’t properly wearing "fit-tested" respiratory masks while removal of asbestos inside the tower was underway.

The citations, all termed "serious," allege violations were discovered both inside the tower and in a loading area where workers were handling bags of dust-laden debris.

Inspectors said guards could be exposed to dust containing asbestos, lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, PCBs and other toxins if a collapse occurred during demolition. But they were never told how to protect themselves, the agency alleges.

Officials at John Galt, which faces a $1,600 fine, and Tyler-Conner, which was fined $1,050, did not return calls seeking comment. Both companies can contest the fines.

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