|NEW YORK - October 22 - The Sierra Club today launched efforts to hold the Bush Administration accountable for misleading the public about the safety of lower Manhattan following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Through a new television ad, the Sierra Club calls attention to White House efforts to downplay health concerns for residents and workers as they returned to their homes and workplaces in the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy.
The ad also urges the White House to follow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General's recommendation to clean up any remaining World Trade Center dust in residences and workplaces.
The ad campaign references an EPA Inspector General's report, released in August, which revealed how press releases drafted by EPA about the air quality at Ground Zero were edited by the Bush White House's Council on Environmental Quality to omit warnings about potentially hazardous toxins.
"We're asking President Bush to be honest with every American - especially those possibly put at greater risk by misleading information," said Carl Pope, Executive Director of Sierra Club. "Americans need to know that the Bush Administration will tell them the truth and will make their health and safety a priority."
The text of the ad reads:
After the towers fell, our streets, homes and offices were coated with dust containing asbestos and other cancer causing chemicals.
But instead of heeding the health warnings of their own experts,
the Bush White House told us it was safe to go back into Lower Manhattan,
when it wasn't.
There is a better way to protect us, Mr. President.
Take action now that keeps more harm from happening:
Clean up the World Trade dust that's still in our homes and workplaces.
And be honest with us. Don't hold back health warnings that will keep us safe.
The Bush White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) instructed the EPA to give the public misleading information about the air quality in lower Manhattan following the September 11 tragedy, according to the EPA Inspector General's report. A draft EPA press release sent to the White House on September 14 stated: "The concern raised by these samples [of dust containing asbestos] would be for the workers at the cleanup site and for those workers who might be returning to their offices on or near Water Street on Monday, September 17, 2001." Yet the Bush White House's edited version, released to the public and media on September 16, was altered to read: "Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York's financial district."
The Sierra Club ad campaign urges the Bush Administration to permit the EPA to honestly and adequately monitor environmental problems and enforce environmental protections without political influence from the White House.
Specifically, the Sierra Club wants the White House to take the following actions:
--Honor the request for Federal EPA testing and clean up of remaining WTC dust in residences and workplaces, including representative sampling outside of EPA's previous target zone, which is the area where the cloud traveled above Canal Street in Manhattan and across the East River in Brooklyn. The Inspector General's report advocated that the EPA take this action.
--Ensure that precautionary measures are taken to prevent future exposure. Specifically, the White House should provide federal assistance for safety equipment and monitoring to protect the workers and the community during WTC site reconstruction with enforcement of proper standards.
--Restore the public trust in federal health warnings by complying with the Inspector General's recommendation that EPA establish a strong federal policy to ensure that Americans receive accurate, complete information on health risks in future emergencies and that federal agencies' roles and duties are clearly defined.
The Sierra Club television ad will run this week the New York City area.