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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Cleanup Update

Air Date: Week of October 5, 2001

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Amy Eddings reports on the continuing concern of some New York City residents over the environmental effects of the World Trade Center disaster.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. It's been nearly a month since tragedy and terror struck the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Disaster relief officials still call the monumental cleanup a rescue and recovery effort. They estimate it could take as long as a year, as much as five billion dollars, to remove millions of tons of rubble. Meanwhile, the environmental effects of the cleanup are a growing concern for people who live and work near the site. Amy Eddings reports.

EDDINGS: No one knows how much debris is heaped at the site where the Twin Towers once stood, but they know how much is no longer there: 171,000 tons have been removed, hauled away in more than 11,000 truckloads. Steel girders are being melted down and recycled. Federal investigators are sifting through smaller pieces of rubble for clues and for the personal effects of the missing and the dead. Dust still coats buildings and windows and fires still burn at the site--an acrid smoke hangs in the air.

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to test for asbestos, lead and other hazardous materials and has found no significant health risk. But some business and community leaders have hired their own consultants, leaving people like Tak and Jessica Wong suspicious.

JESSICA WONG: There's conflicting results.

TAK WONG: Yeah. The governement says it's safe, but then people who hire their own, they say it's not.

EDDINGS: The Wongs joined hundreds of other residents, many who are still unable to get to their homes, for a Town Hall meeting. EPA acting regional administrator Bill Muszynsky said air, dust and soil samples do not have levels of pollutants that should worry residents in the short term.

MUSZYNSKY: The easiest way to find out where we've taken these samples, first and foremost, is to go to our Web site.

[SOUND OF PROTESTS]

MUSZYNSKY: Then we'll have to provide you with some written information somehow, to get you to where those sites are.

[APPLAUSE]

EDDINGS: EPA's test results have been widely reported, but people seemed unconvinced that the agency's reassurances apply to them. At the Town Hall meeting, health and environmental officials were short on details. Asked if the ever-present smoke was harmful to a child, a health department spokesman could only say tests showed it was not a health risk to the general population. For Living on Earth, I'm Amy Eddings in New York.

 

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