Destruction of Evidence from Ground Zero at the World Trade Center

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Some claim that evidence from "ground zero" was destroyed, but the following sources indicate that evidence was preserved and examined before rubble was recycled.

EPA

Regarding the EPA's response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, it states in the Criminal Enforcement section of its website that [1]

"Within minutes of the first attack in New York on September 11, the EPAs Criminal Investigation Division's Special Agent-in-Charge began to coordinate, as the law enforcement liaison, with the FBI and the New York City Police Department, through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, to provide crisis management support to the FBI. Over the next five days, EPA Criminal Enforcement personnel were on site at the World Trade Center, assisting in decontamination, helping to gather crime scene evidence (photography, videotaping, evidence gathering, etc.) and supplying other investigative and technical support to the FBI, NYPD, U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Secret Service. EPA Special Agents have assisted at the Fresh Kills Landfill to process debris from the WTC for personal remains and effects, as well as obtaining evidence of the crime."

Recyclable Metal

"Most of the recyclable metal at ground zero is being sent to the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island where law enforcement authorities survey the material for evidence. Only then is it released to a scrap processor under an existing long-term contract with the New York City Department of Sanitation to purchase and then recycle scrap metal. The scrap processor has established a processing center at Fresh Kills and has brought in mobile shears and torching equipment to cut down the metal. Additionally, two recent bid awards were made to scrap processing firms to recycle 50,000 tons of large structural beams. Under the terms of those awards, the beams will be taken from the World Trade Center site, loaded onto river barges and sent directly to the purchasers' facilities for recycling. These two scrap processors have already offloaded 20,000 tons of structural steel beams shipped by barge directly from ground zero to their facilities."
"ISRI members should be aware that federal investigators and New York City Police deem scrap metal from the World Trade Center to be crime scene evidence. As of this date, there are only two legal pathways by which scrap metal moves from ground zero of the World Trade Center. First, light iron and non-ferrous materials are being sent to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island for forensic review. After the authorities have released the materials they are transferred to a scrap processor under contract with the New York City Department of Sanitation that existed prior to September 11, 2001. Second, two contracts for 25,000 tons each of heavy steel were awarded on a bid basis on September 26, 2001. These materials are being loaded onto barges for delivery to the winning bidders."
"In calling for a new investigation, some structural engineers have said that one serious mistake has already been made in the chaotic aftermath of the collapses: the decision to rapidly recycle the steel columns, beams and trusses that held up the buildings. That may have cost investigators some of their most direct physical evidence with which to try to piece together an answer.
"Officials in the mayor's office declined to reply to written and oral requests for comment over a three-day period about who decided to recycle the steel and the concern that the decision might be handicapping the investigation.
"'The city considered it reasonable to have recovered structural steel recycled,' said Matthew G. Monahan, a spokesman for the city's Department of Design and Construction, which is in charge of debris removal at the site."
"For more than three months, structural steel from the World Trade Center has been and continues to be cut up and sold for scrap. Crucial evidence that could answer many questions about high-rise building design practices and performance under fire conditions is on the slow boat to China, perhaps never to be seen again in America until you buy your next car.
"Such destruction of evidence shows the astounding ignorance of government officials to the value of a thorough, scientific investigation of the largest fire-induced collapse in world history. I have combed through our national standard for fire investigation, NFPA 921, but nowhere in it does one find an exemption allowing the destruction of evidence for buildings over 10 stories tall."
"A shipment of scrap steel from New York's collapsed World Trade Center will arrive in Shanghai tomorrow, according to media reports. The steel was bought by Shanghai Baosteel Group Corp. and several other domestic mills, which are always eager to buy scrap metal.
"Baosteel Group, the nation's largest steel firm, has purchased 50,000 tons of the scrap steel from 'Ground Zero,' the ruins of the September 11 terrorist attack, at no more than US$120 each ton, according to yesterday's Beijing Youth Daily. ... Most of the scrap will be recycled into ingots, but part of the relics will be molded into WTC souvenirs, the paper said.
"Baosteel officials reached by Shanghai Daily, however, denied they will make keepsakes out of the debris, but declined to give more details of their plans, saying only that the scrap will be melted down and reprocessed into new steel products.
"Another shipment of 10,000 tons of scrap from the WTC arrived in India earlier this month, reported Shanghai Morning Post. The metal will be melted down and recycled into kitchenware and other household items, the paper said.
"India bought its lot at US$120 per ton from the New Jersey scrap processor Metal Management, which purchased 40,000 tons of the debris at an auction held by the New York City government. Dealers estimated that the WTC disaster created more than 300,000 tons of scrap metal."
"The Port Authority estimates more than 200,000 tons of steel was used in the World Trade Center's construction. Of that total, more than 168,000 tons has been salvaged from Ground Zero thus far, according to the New York City Office of Emergency Management.
"Three companies – Metal Management Northeast of Newark, N.J., Hugo Neu Schnitzer East of Jersey City and Blandford Land Development Corporation of Brooklyn, N.Y. – have successfully bid for city contracts to recycle the steel, and continue to bid on what remains to be salvaged."
"There is also money to be made from the steel. Asian steel mills have already purchased more than 50,000 tons of it from scrap yards, and reportedly are pledging not to use it to create souvenirs."
  • Testimony of Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Before the Committee on Science of the U.S. House of Representatives, March 6, 2002; Hearing on "Learning from 9/11: Understanding the Collapse of the World Trade Center":
"Upon arrival to NYC on September 19, [2001] and after visiting Ground Zero and paying my respects and prayers to the victims, I started my reconnaissance and collection of the perishable data. I have collected some data on design and construction of the WTC and have met and discussed the case with the structural engineers who have designed the WTC Buildings. Thanks to cooperation of the HSNE recycling plant, I have been able to study the steel from the WTC before recycling. ... I wish I had more time to inspect steel structure and save more pieces before the steel was recycled."
Note: Hugo Neu Schnitzer East (HNSE) is "one of the world's largest recyclers and processors of scrap metals." [2]; Schnitzer Steel Industries: HNSE "operates both a ferrous and nonferrous metals recycling business in the Manhattan, NY and Jersey City, NJ corridor. The facility has multiple locations in the tri-state regions. HNSE sells its finished products in both the domestic and export markets." [3] (See Schnitzer Group.)
"The investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center has been hampered by the destruction of steel wreckage that could hold vital clues about why the twin towers fell, a fire expert says. ... Glenn Corbett, a fire science professor at John Jay College, criticized New York City's decision to melt down and recycle tons of charred and twisted steel from the trade center."

Contamination

"According to Corporate Watch, more than 30,000 tons of the Ground steel scrap is potentially contaminated with asbestos, PCBs, cadmium, mercury and dioxins. Contamination of steel is a common concern in the scrap industry. As far as CorpWatch has been able to determine, US authorities have not studied the levels of contaminants in the Trade Center scrap that was exported. If they have, the information has not reached Indian authorities or port workers.
"On February 4, Greenpeace called for an investigation into whether the shipments were contaminated, and demanded that the movement of scrap be halted until the safety of both workers and the environment could be ascertained. The next day, the People's Union for Civil Liberties, in Chennai, made a similar demand. Bob Kelman, the Hugo Neu Vice President, admitted in a late February interview with National Public Radio that his company hadn't disclosed the origin of the WTC steel to its Asian buyers, but justified this decision on grounds that the EPA hadn't found harmful levels of contamination at Ground Zero. He also pointed out that steel is not an absorbing material that assimilates liquid waste, or carries with excessive amounts of dust.
"It might be easy, at this point, to accuse the US of a double standard--protecting its own people while dumping toxic pollutants on other nations. But that analysis doesn't stand up well to scrutiny, since the government hasn't gone out of its way to protect its own people. At Ground Zero, thousands of rescue workers and residents have been exposed to unknown but significant levels of air contamination. A few days after the attacks, even President Bush stood on the rubble without protective gear, rallying the citizenry, too shocked and too busy to take proper precautions against the toxic cloud that hung over Manhattan. Hundreds of New York firefighters are filing for permanent disability, while serious respiratory infections and other chronic health problems afflict area residents. The question of whether the WTC waste is indeed toxic won't be resolved for years, but it is significant to note that insurance companies like American International Group and Liberty Mutual have refused coverage to the demolition contractors charged with the clean up at Ground Zero."
"About 70,000 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center was shipped to India before it was stopped by objections from environmentalists and unions, says Greenpeace India. Greenpeace says the scrap is contaminated by asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, plastics, and the lead, mercury, and other contaminants in the computers and fittings inside the twin towers destroyed on Sept. 11 last year. ... A preliminary study in India found no toxins, but Greenpeace and other environmental groups question the study's accuracy."

Stealing or taking of WTC scrap

The Associated Press reported in a February 26, 2004, update that not only did the FBI ban the removal of crime scene evidence "after 13 agents stole WTC rubble," but also stated that "'All relevant evidence connected with the WTC crime scene was properly retrieved, catalogued and maintained.'" [4]

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