Nadler to Whitman: A Lie Is A Lie Is A Lie

Sep 1, 2003

New York -- Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today called on former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to provide a truthful account of the EPA's response to 9/11. In an interview this week with Newsweek magazine, Whitman declared that the White House never told the EPA to lie when it issued reassurances to the public regarding air quality in Lower Manhattan, but admitted that the White House edited out words of caution in EPA news releases. She also stated that residents were told by EPA that their homes needed to be professionally cleaned, even though the EPA passed the responsibility of indoor clean-up of WTC dust to the City, which advised people to clean up dust on their own with a "wet rag," all the time declaring that there was no public health risk.

Whitman's comments followed a report recently released by the Inspector General of the EPA, which stated that the EPA mishandled clean-up of schools, apartments, and office buildings in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn following 9/11, and that the White House instructed EPA officials to downplay concerns of contaminants in WTC dust because of "competing considerations."

Congressman Nadler, who has called for a federal investigation into the White House's role in the EPA's response to 9/11, stated, "Christine Todd Whitman, in typical fashion of the Bush White House, has gaping holes in her story when it comes to the EPA's clean-up of WTC dust following 9/11. The fact is her statements are a totally inaccurate representation of how the EPA really responded to the disaster.

"Ms. Whitman states in her Newsweek interview that residents were told by the EPA to have their homes professionally cleaned. This is just not the case. EPA press releases stated that there was no health concern from WTC dust and referred residents to the New York City Department of Health website, which advised people to remove WTC dust using a "wet rag or wet mop." As early as September 13, 2001, Whitman was telling the public that the air in Lower Manhattan was 'safe to breathe.' If this was the case, why would anyone have hired professionals to clean their apartments without warnings from the government to do so?"

In a letter written to Congressman Nadler on February 22, 2002, Whitman defended the New York City Department of Health's advice by stating, "In regard to your concern that EPA guided residents to the New York City Health Department for direction on cleanup of homes, this was appropriate since traditionally, the health agencies make recommendations to the public on health-related issues."

In a press release issued October 3, 2001, the EPA advised residents and workers returning to homes and offices in Lower Manhattan that "people returning to buildings in the area may find some level of dust and debris. If dust or debris from the World Trade Center site has entered homes or offices, people should be sure to clean thoroughly and avoid inhaling dust while doing so."

Nadler said, "It is very clear that the EPA gave false assurances to the public and did not tell residents, as they should have, that the WTC dust was dangerous to breathe. It is the EPA's responsibility to clean up what they refused to clean up before so that New Yorkers' lives are no longer in danger.

"Ms. Whitman also states that '[she was] not told to lie' by the White House, but then she admits that she did not object when the White House edited out cautionary language by scientists in EPA press releases. The fact of the matter is the EPA's false reassurances to the public about air quality were negligent, and the White House was involved in shaping those reassurances without scientific data to back them up. Christine Todd Whitman and the White House must explain why New Yorkers may still be at risk from contamination in their homes and office buildings.

"Christine Todd Whitman and the Bush White House knowingly misled the public. They continue to propagate a cover up that neglects that New York City schools, apartments, and office buildings may still be contaminated with asbestos, lead, and other dangerous toxins. It is time for the administration to come forward and explain why they put politics ahead of the people."