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Nadler Urges Broad Federal Oversight on Cleanup of Mold and Environmental Toxins after Hurricane Sandy

“We must not repeat the same mistakes of 9/11 by leaving people to their own devices to clean up complex toxins without proper guidance or assistance from the federal government.”

Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), representative of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan communities hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to comprehensively test and remediate for mold and environmental toxins present in New York homes and workplaces as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  These substances are known to pose serious and immediate health risks, especially for children and the elderly.  Already, hundreds of private homes, businesses and institutions have reported widespread mold, sewage, and other contaminants in their buildings.  Nadler, who also represents Ground Zero, warned of New York’s recent experience with wholly inadequate oversight and cleanup of environmental hazards in Lower Manhattan following 9/11.  He sent a letter today to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate outlining his concerns.

“Many residents of the low-lying areas of New York City – including lower Manhattan, Red Hook, Sea Gate, Coney Island and Brighton Beach in my district – live in buildings that were flooded,” wrote Nadler.  And, “in many cases, it is unclear whether these homes are safe from mold, sewage or other hazardous substances that could adversely affect residents’ health….In order for us to ensure the safety of these residents, it is imperative that the Environmental Protection Agency conduct or oversee comprehensive testing to make absolutely certain that people’s homes are safe to inhabit.  Given New York’s recent history with environmental hazards caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center, we know all too well the danger presented by indoor contamination.  We must not repeat the same mistakes of 9/11 by leaving people to their own devices to clean up complex toxins without proper guidance or assistance from the federal government.”

The letter follows below:

November 27, 2012

Lisa P. Jackson
Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460

W. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Department of Homeland Security
500 C Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20472

Dear Administrators Jackson and Fugate:

Thank you for all you have done to help New York recover from Hurricane Sandy.  The first responders, agency personnel, and all those involved in the response operations are to be commended for helping our communities recover from the storm. I remain concerned, however, about the environmental conditions in homes and buildings affected by the storm, and respectfully request your assistance to ensure that peoples’ living and work spaces are adequately tested and remediated.  

Many residents of the low-lying areas of New York City – including lower Manhattan, Red Hook, Sea Gate, Coney Island and Brighton Beach in my district – live in buildings that were flooded.  Now that utilities have returned to most areas, many residents, including those who live in public housing, are back in these buildings.  Yet, in many cases, it is unclear whether these homes are safe from mold, sewage or other hazardous substances that could adversely affect residents’ health.  As you know, exposure to mold and other environmental toxins can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues. 

In order for us to ensure the safety of these residents, it is imperative that the Environmental Protection Agency conduct or oversee comprehensive testing to make absolutely certain that people’s homes are safe to inhabit.  Given New York’s recent history with environmental hazards caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center, we know all too well the danger presented by indoor contamination.  We must not repeat the same mistakes of 9/11 by leaving people to their own devices to clean up complex toxins without proper guidance or assistance from the federal government.  Please let me know what steps have been taken in these affected buildings, and what steps will be taken in the future to ensure that the environment is safe for affected New Yorkers.

As we continue to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy,  I stand ready to work with you to address the ongoing needs of all affected communities.  Thank you for your prompt consideration this matter, and for your continued support of the response and recovery efforts in New York.

Sincerely,

Jerrold Nadler
Member of Congress

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