Statement by Speaker Sheldon Silver at Assembly Hearing on Concerns of Residents and Workers Regarding Air Quality in Lower Manhattan
The September 11 attack on New York - an enormous tragedy on so many levels - was without question, an unprecedented environmental disaster.
Dust from the collapsed tower buildings, the fires that burned at Ground Zero for so long, the diesel engines being used in the cleanup effort have, as we know from independent studies, added a variety of potentially lethal substances - including mercury, lead, asbestos and pulverized glass - to the air that we breathe.
To ensure that Lower Manhattan's residents, workers and visitors would get the facts on air quality, and to determine the best course of action for clean up, The New York State Assembly on November 26th of last year held the first public hearing on post-9/11 air quality and public health in Lower Manhattan.
Since that hearing, some progress has been made on the air quality issue.
After considerable foot-dragging, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed off on a plan that will provide the resources to the city in order to clean the exteriors of more than 200 buildings in the area of Ground Zero.
Mayor Bloomberg - as we recommended following the first hearing - has established a task force to address environmental issues relating to September 11, and the EPA has established a task force on indoor air contamination.
Because the governor would not take the action I requested, the Assembly passed legislation (A.10130) on March 20th requiring that low-sulfur fuel be used in all diesel engines being utilized at Ground Zero.
In addition, we have proposed specific funding to help schools acquire and install air testing and ventilation systems to improve air quality in our classrooms.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of fear and uncertainty remains. Doctors continue to report cases of Lower Manhattan residents, workers and students suffering with multiple symptoms of various chronic illnesses.
Ongoing air monitoring and studies performed by civilian scientists and physicians indicate alarming levels of contamination inside apartments, offices, education and public buildings.
Clearly, these buildings must be cleaned inside and out, regardless of whom pays the bill.
And, because re-contamination is an issue, we need continuous and aggressive air monitoring as well as clear guidelines on how to safely clean contaminated building interiors.
Most of all, we need greater coordination between federal, state and local agencies involved in this issue, and from them we absolutely must receive the straight truth about the quality of air throughout Lower Manhattan and the potential risks we are facing.
The September 11 terrorists have taken enough of our friends and neighbors.
We cannot allow their heinous act to poison our children, or create long-term health problems for those of us who will not be driven from our Lower Manhattan homes and businesses.
This is our city -- we're going to make it better than ever and safer than ever for our residents and for those who work and visit here.
New York State Assembly
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