Thursday, April 06, 2006

New 9/11 dustup: LMDC blasted in bank bldg. demolition plan switch
New 9/11 dustup
LMDC blasted in bank bldg. demolition plan switch
Daily News Exclusive

Federal environmental officials and local residents are blasting the state agency in charge of Ground Zero for suddenly altering plans for the demolition of the highly contaminated Deutsche Bank building, the Daily News has learned.

The angry notice from the Environmental Protection Agency comes just days before contractors are supposed to begin cleansing the structure of a toxic brew of asbestos, lead, cadmium, dioxin and other poisons deposited after the 9/11 collapse of the twin towers.

The feds are upset that a subcontractor assigned to the tricky demolition job made "significant changes" to the debris removal plan that could affect "public safety, health and the environment."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), local residents and other elected officials also are upset at the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which oversees Ground Zero, for what they termed a "dangerously inadequate" demolition plan.

Said Kimberly Flynn of the 9/11 Environmental Action group: "Now the toxic tower is coming down - imminently - but we do not yet have an EPA-approved demolition plan in place."

The floor-by-floor demolition is scheduled to begin next month. Its $46 million cost has risen to $52 million due to increased insurance requirements, state officials said.

Before a single brick can be removed, however, the building's interior must be cleansed, a process expected to begin during the next two weeks.

In several letters over the past month, the EPA has been seeking explanations for "significant differences" from the original approved demolition plan.

In a March 20 letter, the EPA noted five unapproved additions by John Galt Co., the subcontractor responsible for the toxic cleanup and the demolition: a concrete crushing machine on the upper floors, construction of a chute through which crushed concrete would plummet to the ground, a five-story buffer zone between the toxic cleanup and the actual demolition, use of a floating "roof" as the work progresses and the use of debris as fill material at the site.

Pat Evangelista, the EPA official in charge of the Ground Zero cleanup, warned the LMDC that the added techniques "will of course have an impact on potential releases of contaminants." He said additional information and analysis was "essential to our ongoing responsibility to protect public health and the environment."

EPA spokeswoman Mary Meeks said yesterday that the agency had received an LMDC response and was reviewing it.

The LMDC contended the chute was in the original plan and would obviously require concrete crushing equipment. The use of debris as fill is "environmentally appropriate," and the "floating roof" was previously discussed, the LMDC added.

The demolition has been plagued with problems. The first firm hired was booted when its demolition plans weren't approved by the EPA and other officials.

Federal regulators cited one contractor after a worker fell off a scaffold last December and are now investigating a second accident two weeks ago when a worker fell 400 feet into a sub-basement.

Also within the last month, workers found bits of human bone inside the building believed to be from victims of the 9/11 attacks.