What public officials failed to say about post–9/11 New York air
“Gonzalez’s . . . stories gave New York its only insights into the witches’ brew that cooked, compressed, and dispersed at Ground Zero. [He is] virtually the only local source of investigative coverage on the environmental hazards.” —The American Prospect
Within days of the September 11th attack in New York City, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman, together with Time Man of the Year Rudy Giuliani, reassured New Yorkers that air “contaminants are either not detectable or are below the Agency’s concern levels.”
In fact, EPA tests taken at the time showed high concentrations of toxic materials in the air downtown, including asbestos, dioxins, and heavy metals. Con Edison and the Port Authority revealed—two months after the attack—that nearly 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel and transformer oils, much of it contaminated with low-level PCBs, had escaped beneath Ground Zero. And independent measurements of indoor air, widespread because the agency declined to test private buildings, showed astronomically higher readings.
Prizewinning journalist Juan Gonzalez argues that public officials misled New Yorkers about the real dangers of toxic contamination after September 11. Their failure may have profound effects on the long-term health of New Yorkers and the reputation of the ex-mayor.