United States Environmental Protection Agency September 11 attacks pollution controversy,
The EPA 9/11 pollution controversy was the result of a report released by the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Environmental Protection Agency in August 2003 which claimed that the White House put pressure on the EPA to delete cautionary information about the air quality in New York City around Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001 attacks. According to the report: a September 18 EPA statement saying that the air was "safe" was made without sufficient reliable data available; the White House Council on Environmental Quality influenced the EPA to make reassuring comments to the public; and on September 12 the EPA Administrator issued a memo saying that all statements to the media must be cleared by the National Security Council.
Numerous key differences between the draft versions and final versions of EPA statements were found. A recommendation that homes and businesses near ground zero be cleaned by professionals was replaced by a request that citizens follow orders from NYC officials. Another statement that showed concerns about "sensitive populations" was deleted altogether. Language used to describe excessive amounts of abestos in the area was altered drastically to minimize attention to the dangers it posed.
The news of the report created a short-lived backlash against the administration. Especially angered were New Yorkers who lived near the site of the terrorist attacks. Even a year after 9/11 some 7,000 rescue workers were believed to be suffering from Ground Zero illness: respiratory ailments caused by the dust. Many cleaning efforts by government and private agencies on homes and businesses were accused of being inadequate.
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph I. Lieberman sent a letter to President George W. Bush concerning his administration's alleged intervention in internal EPA affairs.
In an interview with Katie Couric for 60 Minutes, former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman criticized NYC authorities for not forcing rescue workers to wear respirators, as EPA did not have the legal authority. She also defended her own record and denied the claim that her agency lied about air quality surrounding Ground Zero:
The last thing in the world that I would ever do would be to put people at risk. Of all the criticisms that I had in my career ... this is by far the most personally troubling. You want to say, 'You're wrong.' We never lied.
However, Whitman's claims were contradicted by Cate Jenkins, a senior scientist at the EPA. In a 2006 New York Times article, Jenkins claimed that the EPA outright lied about health hazards posed by alkalinity, or pH level, of the dust levels at Ground Zero.
In September 2006 the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security held a two day long hearing on the subject of illnesses caused by post-9/11 air quality.Whitman, the EPA, and New York City were targets of blame.