Testimony to the City Council                     January 11, 2007  

Jenna Orkin

World Trade Center Environmental Organization



Thank you for holding this hearing.  

I got involved in the environmental disaster of 9/11 as a Stuyvesant High School parent.  In the process of working with other activists to get Stuyvesant properly cleaned I learned of ultrasonication, a highly sensitive asbestos test developed by no less an authority than EPA themselves.  Using ultrasonication, we found 2.4 million structures per sq. cm. of asbestos in a carpet segment from the Stuyvesant auditorium.  

Following that success, if you can call it that, I had ultrasonication performed on the carpet in my apartment in downtown Brooklyn, an act which led to my becoming a plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, Benzman vs. EPA.  The result came back 79,000 structures per sq. cm., a gray area, according to the experts I consulted.  There are no established healthbased benchmarks for ultrasonication.  I had the one bedroom apartment abated which took four burly men 22 hours.  The apartment passed its subsequent air tests.  But one of the tests showed a level of asbestos that was almost ten times higher than EPA claimed it was achieving in Lower Manhattan.  Bearing in mind EPA's history of using the wrong equipment in the wrong places the wrong way, you may draw from this anomaly whatever conclusions you wish  

Councilmembers, this hearing has the air of a reunion.  For over five years EPA has shown up at hearings at all levels of government.  Each time, experts and citizens who've been forced into de facto expertise have chastised the agency for innumerable flaws in innumerable plans.  Each time, EPA has been sent back to the drawing board.  And each time, after months of dragging their heels, they have emerged with a new plan that has outdone the last in scientific shoddiness.  Then the process has started all over again.  

The tail is wagging the dog.  We should not be spending time on EPA's latest outrage.  The appropriate response to environmental disasters is well-established:  testing in concentric circles emanating from the center with cleanup to follow as warranted.  In this case, the testing should be for a broad spectrum of contaminants since that's what was released.  The World Trade Center was not a person; the notion that it had a fingerprint or signature is a misleading metaphor.  

The City Council can leverage its power by issuing a formal request to Senator Boxer, the Chairwoman of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, and to Senator Clinton, the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Superfunds, to convene hearings on the response to 9/11 of EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  Only Congress has the authority to force EPA to finally do its job.  

The environmental disaster of 9/11 will ultimately cause more deaths than took place on the day itself.  But some good may also come out of it, if we use it as a cautionary tale.  Five years ago, this issue was lied about, denied and muffled in the press.  Only after the tragic illnesses and deaths of Ground Zero workers did the mainstream press and certain politicians wake up and pay due attention.  

Today, an even greater disaster faces us.  Like the environmental disaster of 9/11, this one is also being lied about, denied and muffled in the press until it's too late.  This disaster is known as Peak Oil and its consequences are already playing out in global conflicts.  The multifarious other consequences of Peak Oil will spread, including to New York City, sooner than is generally acknowledged and to far more catastrophic effect.  Unimaginable as it seems now - as unimaginable as planes flying into buildings seemed six years ago - our food supply will be severely affected.  And using smarter lighting and mass transportation will fall woefully short of addressing the problem.    I would therefore also request that the City Council hold hearings on Peak Oil in particular with relation to the best possible response to it, Richard Heinberg's Oil Depletion Protocol.   Thank you.