Neighborhood Advocates Call for Greater Protection of our Healthby on
In response to last weekend’s devastating fire at Williamsburg’s CitiStorage site, GWAPP is proud to join NAG and a group of local environmental advocates who put together a petition calling for the de Blasio administration to better monitor toxic industrial fires in North Brooklyn.
“GWAPP fully supports this petition to investigate past disasters and protect our community from future ones,” said GWAPP President Richard Mazur. “North Brooklyn is no stranger to the impact of toxins – whether from spills or fires – and we must continue to hold the de Blasio administration’s feet to the fire when it comes to full disclosure of associated public health risks.”
Specifically, the petition calls for leadership and implementation of the following measures in response to this week’s fire:
- An independent investigation into the City’s response to the three major industrial/commercial fires in North Brooklyn that have taken place over the past year, particularly evaluating how the city has monitored air pollution and health concerns for areas downwind of these fires, and informed the public and workers about potential hazards and health risks.
- An independent investigation into the City’s emergency response plans for responding to commercial and industrial fires in NYC, with recommendations on how the city can improve its environmental and public health response, as well as public communications.
- The NYC DEP and DOH develop an emergency ambient air monitoring program for responding to major commercial and industrial fires. Air sampling should address particulate matter, VOC’s, and other chemicals and toxic byproducts that may be released during uncontrolled commercial and industrial fires. Air monitoring should take place both near the fires as well as areas downwind. Community stakeholders that have been impacted should be consulted in the development of such a program.
- The NYC DEP, DOH, and FDNY should publicly release any and all environmental sampling data from the three recent fires in North Brooklyn, post them online and in ways that is accessible to all members of the community.
- The DEP should sample the CitiStorage site for dioxins and furans in the ashes, soot, soil, and puddles on site, particularly as this site is adjacent to the East River. The East River already has a NYS DOH fish consumption advisory for crabs contaminated with dioxins. DEP should also test ashes and soot from the fire in people’s backyards, and on vehicles nearby. If the DEP is unable to, it should request the assistance of the DEC and EPA.
- The NYC DOH should evaluate the potential health hazards that residents and workers face(d) from exposure to pollution from the ongoing CitiStorage fire, particularly those most vulnerable such as infants, young children, women of childbearing age, residents with asthma, and elderly residents.
“Over the past few days, a huge 7-alarm fire has been burning out of control in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sending a plume of acrid toxic smoke into the air for miles. Residents downwind have been complaining about foul odors, sore throats, headaches, and even the insides of their homes reeking of smoke.
While NYC firefighters have been bravely battling the fire under fierce conditions, city environmental and public health agencies were slow to respond to this disaster; one of the worst fires in NYC since 9/11.
Over the past year, three major industrial fires have occurred in the increasingly populous communities of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.
Aside from the most recent fire in Williamsburg, most of these events have gone under-reported and little to no public information was released regarding the potential health and safety hazards presented by these fires.
Historically, these communities have been overburdened by pollution from toxic waste sites, waste transfer stations, a sewage treatment plant, the Greenpoint oil spill and numerous state and federal Superfund sites. In addition, many presently operating businesses rely upon the usage or presence of specific chemicals on-site. When there is a fire on a property containing chemicals or a toxic legacy, there is an exponential increase in the likelihood of neighborhood exposure to the chemicals on-site, including chemicals which are potentially hazardous to human health.
Toxic chemicals like dioxins and furans, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and elevated particulate matter are some of the potentially hazardous chemicals that can be released in the event of a fire. Specific health effects linked to exposure to these chemicals and pollutants include asthma and other respiratory problems, headaches, cancer, birth defects, learning and developmental disabilities. Undoubtedly the public — and the City– have a right to quantifiable information wherever possible; measuring exposure enables more effective environmental and public health responses.”