New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
United States Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, and Climate Change
February 11, 2002
Thank you for providing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) with the opportunity to testify about our efforts to assist the residents and businesses of lower Manhattan to recover from the devastation caused by the destruction of the World Trade Center Complex. We share, with Governor Pataki and our sister agencies, the highest level of commitment to managing the cleanup, and we appreciate the excellent coordination among all levels of government involved in this effort.
As with other New York agencies that have never reacted to a disaster of this magnitude, in many respects NYSDEC=s efforts at the World Trade Center are unprecedented. Although these efforts spanned many environmental media and critical issues, I will focus my testimony today on the air quality issues noted in the Subcommittee=s letter of invitation to Governor Pataki.
Air Quality Monitoring and Assessment
As soon as possible after the attacks on the World Trade Center, NYSDEC began to work with other state, federal and local environmental and health agencies to monitor and assess the environmental impacts from the devastation. We established a multi-jurisdictional air-monitoring group to coordinate this effort, which initially focused on worker safety during the rescue efforts. Safeguards were put in place to prevent excessive exposure to contaminants released by the destruction of these buildings, and these safeguards remain in effect today.
Next, along with our sister agencies, we began the process of identifying specific monitoring needs and then put in place the process of collecting that information. NYSDEC, along with USEPA, OSHA, the State Department of Health, and the City of New York, continue this aggressive air monitoring effort. All of the data is posted on the EPA web site as it becomes available. NYSDEC collects data specifically on asbestos, PM2.5, PM10 and dioxin.
Asbestos was used in the early stages of construction on Tower One, and as a result, asbestos levels have been detected occasionally in the samples we have collected. There are 18 monitoring locations in lower Manhattan at which asbestos samples are collected. NYSDEC is responsible for seven of these sites, primarily located outside the exclusionary zone, in conjunction with USEPA. We operate the equipment and change the filters on a daily basis. Once our staff remove a filter, we forward it to USEPA for analysis. This data, like other asbestos data, is then uploaded to the USEPA website to ensure that the public has access to this information as quickly as possible.
In determining, together with our sister agencies, a standard to be used in monitoring asbestos levels, we decided on the asbestos standard most protective of public health B the Asbestos Hazard and Emergency Response Act (AHERA) standard of 70 structures per millimeter squared. This standard, which USEPA established, is used primarily for indoor air purposes and in schools to determine when it is safe for activities to resume in a school building once it has been cleaned of asbestos. Applied to outdoor air, this is a very conservative standard of comparison.
Our multi-agency agreement to use the AHERA standard ensures that there is a consistent approach used in analyzing the asbestos results. These results must be obtained using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) B a method required to analyze for asbestos because it identifies individual asbestos fibers and does not confuse asbestos fibers with fiberglass or other fibers.
To date, more than 5,500 asbestos samples have been taken in lower Manhattan, with only 31 of the total samples above the TEM AHERA level. Of those 31 samples, 27 were collected prior to October 9. The remaining four were reported after that date. All of the levels above the standard were observed in or very near to the exclusionary zone around Ground Zero.
Thousands of asbestos samples have been taken at the Staten Island Landfill to which debris is taken, with only 40 of the samples above the TEM AHERA level. All of the levels above the standard were observed within the exclusionary zone at the Landfill.
While we continue to monitor for asbestos, it is clear from the findings that the asbestos levels detected in the ambient air have not generally been above what is considered a safe indoor air standard B one that is protective of the children in our schools.
NYSDEC also collects data from nine sites located in all five boroughs of New York City. To date, this data does not indicate that the TEM AHERA standard has been exceeded.
I would like to bring to your attention the results of the residential monitoring study performed jointly by the New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH) and ATSDR. In this effort, indoor dust and air in buildings around the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan were sampled. The results of the study are only now becoming available, and appear to indicate that asbestos levels in indoor air are below USEPA standards. In some locations, asbestos was found in settled dust.
NYSDEC uses two types of sampling techniques to monitor for small particles in the air, also known as particulates. At present, we are sampling for both PM 2.5 (fine particulates) and PM10 (both fine and coarse particulates) levels in lower Manhattan. We have selected five new monitoring sites in lower Manhattan B the Coast Guard Station in southern Manhattan, Park Row (near City Hall), the Borough of Manhattan Community College, Albany Street at West Street and Wall Street at Broad Street. Equipment at these sites is a combination of both continuous air quality monitoring devices and filter based air quality monitoring devices. The continuous air quality devices provide information on the levels of PM2.5 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This data is reported automatically to two websites, one operated by the NYSDEC and the other operated by USEPA. Both are available to the public.
To date, the particulate levels in lower Manhattan, as well as throughout the rest of the City, have not demonstrated significant increases. In fact, readings have been consistent with levels recorded prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center. At no time has there been a level of particulates monitored that exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for a 24-hour period for either PM2.5 (65 micrograms per cubic meter) or PM 10 (150 micrograms per cubic meter). In fact, on only one day since the attacks occurred has there been a daily average recorded at any monitor throughout New York City that exceeded the 40 micrograms per cubic meter level that USEPA uses as a guideline for concern for sensitive individuals. Also located at our new monitoring sites are monitors to collect PM10 data. There has been no exceedance of this standard.
There has been some discussion about occasional spikes in the particulate levels which could present public health concerns. These short-term increases in particulate matter have been infrequent, and were present previous to the World Trade Center collapse.
Finally, the Department has been involved in the field work for dioxin monitoring. The Department maintains three sites and collects samples for dioxin analysis by USEPA. As in the case of asbestos and particulate levels, dioxins have been detected in some of the samples. However, the presence of dioxin is also consistent with the nature of a disaster such as this one, where fires continued burning for an extended period of time. While the early results were above USEPA=s 30-year public health exposure guideline, since the fires were extinguished these levels are decreasing. Similar decreasing concentration trends have been observed for lead and PCB measurements.
The presence of odors in lower Manhattan and concerns about eye, throat, nose and respiratory irritation are a cause of concern to those who live and work in this area. Odors, which can result from fires such as those that burned after the World Trade Center=s destruction, have abated substantially. Short-term exposures to contaminants near the immediate area of the World Trade Center may have contributed to the irritation which some residents reported.
We monitor air quality for specific parameters and measure the results against standards that have been set as the result of lengthy public processes. Outside of the immediate area of the World Trade Center, we have not seen a significant cause for concern through our air quality monitoring. At the site, DEC and other agencies have consistently and strongly recommended that workers use appropriate safety equipment to minimize their exposure to these irritants. NYSDEC will continue its air monitoring activities and expand them as needed in consultation with the City and federal agencies. We will maintain these activities until this effort is completed.
I would like to raise to you a critical priority for the State of New York, along with the City of New York and neighboring counties. In nonattainment areas, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 wisely requires State Implementation Plans for air quality and transportation plans, programs and projects to conform B so that the transportation projects which are put in place help congested areas, such as Southeastern New York, to attain National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
In the 10 county region which includes New York City, Long Island, and the lower Hudson Valley, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) responsible for implementing this program. NYSDEC, the State Department of Transportation, USEPA and federal transportation agencies oversee this process. NYMTC=s state of the art computerized simulation models, and its efforts to implement the conformity requirements of federal law, are among the best in the Nation.
Among the many tragedies of September 11th, NYMTC lost three of its staff; its office space; and its computer hardware, models, and data bases in the terrorist attacks. While the Clean Air Act contemplated many circumstances under which natural disasters could affect a transportation network, it never contemplated an act of terrorism that would destroy an MPO=s offices and much of its institutional knowledge. On one single day, over 100,000 jobs relocated from lower Manhattan, and other jobs have been lost since then, making much of the previously-used data obsolete.
NYMTC, along with other public and private businesses that had been housed in the World Trade Center, is struggling now to recover from this devastating loss. Along with moving to temporary offices in Long Island City, NYMTC is working to reestablish its models, and to develop data bases on the vastly different commuting patterns that now affect the transportation networks and air quality of New York City and surrounding counties. As it does so, we recognize the serious problem that the New York Metropolitan Area cannot proceed with major new transportation projects B even those needed to replace the networks damaged or destroyed on September 11th B without a limited and temporary waiver from the Clean Air Act=s conformity requirements. Governor Pataki, along with transportation organizations, businesses, and commuters in this region, are greatly concerned about the need for this waiver, and I urge your strong support for it.
Already, we are working with staff from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with House Committee staff, on this problem. On behalf of Governor Pataki, I want to thank Senator Clinton and the Committee staff for their sympathy and interest in the State=s waiver request. As they have noted, environmental concerns with the waiver need to be considered as part of this process. We agree with this concern, and have met several times with environmental organizations to discuss the proposed waiver; how the State intends to oversee its implementation; and how we will ensure the maintenance of air quality during the period covered by the waiver. Our task is made easier by Governor Pataki=s strong and well-demonstrated commitment to measures that protect and improve New York=s air quality. We believe that the citizens and workers of the New York Metropolitan Area can rest assured that every effort will be made to continue to improve New York City=s air quality while we work to recover from the devastation of September 11th.
Diesel Truck Emissions
I also would like to raise the issue of idling trucks related to the cleanup. State regulation provides that no truck shall idle for more than five minutes, except in situations where the truck is to stand for more than two hours at a temperature below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. NYSDEC environmental conservation officers enforce this regulation, and encourage the reporting of idling complaints to the Department=s Regional Office. In addition, the City of New York has an even more stringent requirement that allows only three minutes of idling, which City officers are able to enforce.
I want to reiterate Governor Pataki=s appreciation to the Subcommittee for providing us with the opportunity to relate to you the actions that the State has taken and will continue to take since the morning of September 11th to respond to and clean up the devastation caused by the destruction of the World Trade Center Complex. For the number of staff hours that have gone into our efforts to date, the information that I have provided to you today is indeed brief. I hope, though, that it provides you with a sense of the commitment we feel to ensuring that public health and environmental quality are safeguarded throughout the activities we are undertaking to clean up this site.
I want to remind you, as well, that the State=s commitment to lower Manhattan will not end when all of the debris is removed from the site. We will continue to monitor air quality in this region, and we look forward to developing B along with the City of New York, the New York State Legislature, other state and federal agencies and the citizens of Manhattan B environmentally sound plans for the future of this devastated area.
Thank you again for allowing me to testify before you today.