Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bad Air Day


Not that we in New York didn't know this already and not that we in New York haven't already figured out we got a non-lubricated rumphump, but it's nice to see a Federal agency make a real issue of this:
WASHINGTON - The Government Accountability Office has condemned the cleanup and testing program for Ground Zero-area buildings, saying the federal Environmental Protection Agency has largely ignored New Yorkers' health and safety concerns.

In a report released Wednesday, the nonpartisan federal watchdog claimed EPA's current program for indoor areas contaminated by World Trade Center dust has been underfunded, misdirected and failed to include areas in the Sept. 11 debris cloud north of Canal Street and in Brooklyn.

"While EPA has acted upon lessons learned following this disaster, some concerns remain about its preparedness to respond to indoor contamination following future disasters," concluded author John Stephenson.
The shocking revelation in this report is how the EPA could miss that Brooklyn, which lay for weeks under the cloud of smoke and dust blown off the Trade Center site by prevailing winds (with one or two days' respite due to winbd shifts or rain), was not included in the first round of air quality testing.

Anybody who wasn't blind could see the direction that cloud was flowing.

But, as they say, wait, there's more:
EPA's first indoor cleanup and testing plan, which focused primarily on airborne asbestos contamination and included only residences, was deemed inadequate by the agency's own inspector general.

The second program, inaugurated in late 2005, includes testing of dust for other toxins but still doesn't include businesses or testing of most ventilation systems in apartment towers.

At a news conference Wednesday, Clinton accused the EPA of "understating the potential risks" of indoor contamination to "discourage people from participating" in the new cleanup plan.

In a 26-page point-by-point rebuttal, EPA officials said their decision to limit the geographic scope of their program was based on computer modeling showing that most contamination occurred in Manhattan below Canal Street.
And that's likely true, the most immediate impact of the disaster was likely contained below Canal Street in lower Manhattan.

But people don't live in computer models, so it would have been a prudent and intell-- oh, who the hell am I kidding? We're talking the Bush administration, fer god's sake! Suffice it to say that they scoped out the minimum effort to put into any project, and then deducted a 20% vig off the top for their cronies.

And none of that goes anywhere near the lengths to explaining how, in a business district, commercial buildings were exempted from testing in the first place. I'm sure many of the landlords who owned buildings down there tested on their own (insurance companies likely demanded it,) as I'm sure many apartment building ventilation systems were tested, but let's be real: what landlord is going to risk his occupancy rate in the face of an economic collapse of the area by admitting, yes, there's a problem, and allowing tenants to make informed decisions about whether to continue living and working in his buildings?

The EPA should have been in there on September 12th, digging in the dirt to find out what was happening.

In the course of thirty years of Republican dominance in the White House, we as a nation have come to expect very little from our Presidents, basically, protect us at some minimal quantifiable level.

This administration has failed to do even that much. It failed to stop the terrorist attacks on 9/11, despite warnings out the wazoo about them coming. It has downgraded every single Federally funded program, from FDA inspections to FEMA disaster relief. It has cut funding to the Army Corps of Engineers in every single year of its existence, including the year after Katrina.

And now this.

I know the stated intent of some of Bush's backers was to make government small enough to drown in a bathtub. I just didn't think they meant to include the rest of us, as well.