2007_06_christietodd.jpgThere's nothing like testifying in front of Congress as the Daily News puts you on the front cover and asks you to "come clean" about the post-WTC collapse toxic air in an editorial. Today, Christie Todd Whitman appeared before a Democratic-controlled Congress; the Daily News editorial demanded that former EPA head explain why she and the EPA led New Yorkers to believe the air downtown was safe.

During her testimony, Whitman spent the time denouncing evidence that EPA misled the public, saying, "There are people to blame. They are the terrorists that attacked the United States, not the men and women of all levels of government." And recently, she's been saying that she urged emergency responders to wear masks at Ground Zero - something that then Mayor Rudy Giuliani didn't do.

We recommend reading Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez's list of ten questions Whitman must answer; here's one:

Question number 3

On Sept. 13, 2001, you told a New York television station: "Everything we're getting back from the sampling that we're doing is below background levels. There is not a reason for the general public to be concerned."

But the earliest tests your agency did in lower Manhattan between Sept. 11-13 showed nearly 25% of dust samples had asbestos levels greater than the government's 1% action standard for dust.

EPA didn't begin regular outdoor air monitoring until Sept. 14. The only air tests your agency could have had for Sept. 12 and 13, before your TV statement, were from New York City's Department of Environmental Protection. Of 10 air samples the city took during those days, initial testing showed seven with dangerous asbestos levels - above the .01 fibers per cubic centimeter standard.

Given those early test results by the EPA and the city, how could you possibly tell the public on Sept. 13 that "everything" was "below background levels?"

Check out this EPA press release from September 18, 2001. Here's Representative Jerrold Nadler's opening statement for today's hearing on the EPA response ("It is my fervent hope that after some of the truth begins to come to light through these hearings."). And the Daily News won a Pulitzer this year for its 2006 editorial writing on behalf of sick Ground Zero workers; you can read those editorials here.