Statement of Marjorie J. Clarke, Ph.D. - revised
thank the Environmental Protection Committee for inviting me to testify at
Oversight Hearings on the Environmental Impacts on Lower Manhattan Due to the
Terrorist Attack on the
I begin with my prepared remarks, I want to respond to something that was
brought up earlier. The Committee should
know that a gram of diesel particulate is not as dangerous as asbestos, dioxin,
PCB, or many other organic compounds and heavy metals, so even though we have a
lot of information about the carcinogenicity of this one
pollutant, we shouldn't lose sight of each and every one of the other name and
unnamed pollutants created by the incineration of everything in the
are several issues of importance to the public in the way the City as well as
USEPA has handled air quality issues in lower
This is a new type of air
pollution source, with characteristics of a crematorium, a solid waste
incinerator, an asbestos factory, and even an ash-spewing volcano. No emissions standards exist for this type of
source, though I am familiar with emissions standards for incinerators. Many of us remember the bitter battles
Entrainment of pollutant-laden fine dust is also occurring, as we heard, by loading debris into trucks and barges. There are standards for reducing entrainment of incinerator ash. These involve spraying water and containment in leak-proof, covered trucks. Why aren't we following those?
Air Quality Data has been selectively shared with the public, leaving the public mistrustful. EPA initially listed only asbestos in air, asbestos in dust and a gross measure of particulate matter in air. After several weeks passed, EPA added PCB and lead. All told, this was maybe 20 pages of information. Then, in a televised public forum (City Club forum), EPA said that all of its data was online. I subsequently learned that EPA had 900 pages of data, including a list of heavy metals, dioxins and furans, acid gases, as well as those items listed. But EPA has demanded that people who want to see the data come to the repository and look at it. I asked for an electronic copy. I was told I was the first one to ask for it! But I was told that would not be possible. How could this be, since the data Surely exist on someone's computer? The Manhattan Borough President's office was told it could have a copy, but that it had to write a Freedom of Information request. As far as I know, that office still has not received the data and we have been talking about getting this data to them for a week or so. It is just this kind of secretive behavior that invites people who do go down to view the full datasets, to quote data selectively. If the data were available in a spreadsheet, then academic, environmental, and community institutions could have already started studies. Those who want to conduct analyses are still unable to do so.
close by drawing an analogy with the way the environmental agencies are dealing
with the public health hazard downtown.
We have exactly the same situation here. There is a lot we don't know. The government wants to protect business and the tourist trade. The government has kept a great deal of information off limits to anyone for the first several weeks, and lately it has made it difficult to obtain in any usable form. Even worse than this is that we don't know the long-lasting impacts of the initial huge, dense dust cloud on those running in its midst. We don't know the additive and synergistic effects of many toxic and carcinogenic pollutants that continue to be emitted from the fires or entrained from the dust as it blows off the rooftops and ledges. Will these compromise immune systems, making them vulnerable to future attacks? Now is a time for the environmental agencies to pull their heads from the sand, make an about-face, release all data and interpretive guidelines on the Web. The Council should assist by committing City funds and encouraging the Administration to seek federal 9/11 grants to conduct ongoing, comprehensive surveillance of symptoms in affected populations, buy filters for residents, pay for proper cleanup, research the acute and long-term impacts on health of highly concentrated combinations of pollutants acting for a short time, as well as elevated levels of combinations acting for longer periods of time. The government should write new standards to reflect short-term exposure to high concentrations as well as synergistic effects. I know that the City is loathe to write its own pollution standards, preferring to rely on federal, but in some cases we have acted, and this is clearly one of them. We need to have more contingency planning for different types of environmental disasters as this new war against terrorism progresses. This is the only way to regain public trust. Recalling the hurricane example, and realizing that we may not be finished with terrorism, becoming the world's experts in environmental health disasters and being truly open with the public is the best course of action in the long term.