Friday, January 13, 2006

Forgotten Heroes of "The Pile"

We watch daily as worker's rights steadily erode and along with those rights goes the right to safe workplaces and enviroments. Looking back to 9/11, I remember all the volunteers who poured into New York City to help in the search for survivors and then victims, followed by the massive cleanup which followed. These volunteers came because their hearts went out for the family's of the people who were caught in the middle of this tragedy. They did it because they could feel the heart-wrenching anguish, terror, and suffering of the people, not for any thought of financial gains or wages. And to think now our country refuses to meet these people's medical needs which have arisen from the unsafe enviroment at ground zero is enough to make me want to take some sort of action. I simply can't believe these self-serving, publically elected, politicians can be so heartless as to push these workers aside and just say to them "I'm sorry, but you're on your own".

Matthew Wheeland writes in AlterNet about the Sierra Club's new television series and the airing of the Sierra Chronicles. The first episode in on the forgotten heroes of 9/11. It's an exceptional documentary and if you possibly can, please take a few and watch the trailer at least. The full episode (30 minutes) is available.

The New Standard has done a three part series about the failure of the EPA to warn an estimated 40,000 rescue and recovery workers at "ground zero" or as it was referred to by the workers, The Pile. Part I of the series is entitled Ground Zero .
Ground Zero workers -- lacking proper training and accurate official safety information -- had little incentive to wear the “uncomfortable and unmanageable” respiratory gear.

Part II is entitled Caught In the Smoke.
On the eve of a renewed push for a government response to the health and economic needs of 9/11's heroes and the victims of its poisonous aftermath, experts and activists explain why so many feel frustrated and abandoned.

Part III is entitled Lingering Threats.
In the eyes of many people who live and work near the Manhattan site of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the government’s response to their demands for more testing and decontamination have been woefully inadequate.

Many have suggested that Christine Todd who headed the EPA at the time of 9/11 was coerced by the white house administration to declare the enviromental quality of the area around the WTC as being safe in order to speed up the re-opening of the stock exchange, the schools, and the local businesses to gain a level of normalty and to move ahead. If this turns out to be true, then what about this quote from Todd? "The defining feature of the conservative viewpoint is a faith in the ability, and a respect for the right, of individuals to make their own decisions - economic, social, and spiritual - about their lives." I suppose she is saying the heroes who searched for survivors and cleaned up the destruction at ground zero had the right to make their own decision to help, therefore they don't deserve any medical help for their exposure of who knows how many toxins, from the government who lied about the safety of the site only for economical reasons.

In fact, New York City residents sued the EPA for their lies and their in/actions concerning the aftermath of 9/11.
The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the law when they, "made materially misleading statements regarding the safety of air quality in Lower Manhattan shortly after September 11, 2001, failed to follow federal laws mandating that EPA take lead responsibility for the cleanup of buildings and residences in response to terroristic attacks, delegated all responsibility for the cleanup to the City of New York which was ill-equipped to handle the situation, failed to properly supervise and oversee the cleanup efforts by the City of New York, referred the public to cleanup guidelines issued by the City of New York which were contrary to EPA standards and grossly inadequate to properly cleanup the hazardous substances, failed to properly assess the complete geographic scope of the hazard, and failed to remediate the problems through their voluntary cleanup program."

And just last month the EPA announced that it will proceed with a plan to test inside some Manhattan buildings for WTC dust. But most criticize the program because it doesn't do nearly enough! Also Clinton and Nadler have sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office requesting an investigation into EPA's “failure to establish an effective, science-based testing and clean-up plan” of 9-11-related contamination remaining downtown".

The white house administration seems to have different priorities when it comes to the treatment of corporate interests as compared to worker's interests.
Following the devastating chemical accident in Bhopal, India, in 1984 (15,000 deaths are blamed on the Union Carbide plant's gas leak), Congress passed a series of laws aiming to minimize risks of similar accidents in the United States, and to document vulnerabilities. In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that there were some 123 factories where accidents could endanger up to 1 million people. After the 9/11 attacks, the EPA, then headed by Christine Todd Whitman, sought to regulate security at those high-risk plants. The White House intervened to oppose regulation. The reason? The administration was getting flack from chemical business groups unhappy about new regulatory demands. The EPA was forced to back off.

The Sierra Club has published a report of the deception and the pollution at Ground Zero. The report shows how the administration, first praises the rescue and recovery workers and the thousands of others who came back into the area to rebuild, and then abandon the same workers when they suffer health effects. The report is exellent and it even mentions the possible hazards in post Katrina and it's cleanup. The report is Pollution and Deception at Ground Zero Revisited: Why It Could Happen Again. We haven't forgotten guys and we've got your back! It's our watch!

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