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Lawyer Says Air Quality Monitoring In City Not Sufficient

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A top environmental attorney said Friday that local air monitoring is needed to properly determine if the city's air is safe to breathe after Sandy. NY1's Grace Rauh has the story.

Many New Yorkers who live in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy have voiced concern to city officials about the quality of their air.

While the city has said it is, residents aren't satisfied with the response.

The city's declaration that the air is safe is based on air quality results from the state's network of air monitors. Most of them are located far from the neighborhoods most affected by the storm.

An environmental lawyer said local air monitoring is necessary to conclude with conviction that the air is safe.

"One thing about air pollution is that it is often localized," said Eric Goldstein, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "f you are looking for particulate matter, you need to have monitors that are in the area in which you are concerned about."

But officials are not monitoring air in neighborhoods that suffered the most on a regular basis.

"It's somewhat perplexing that five weeks after the storm itself, the state, the federal government and the city have not been able to get together and get in a mobile monitor that probably would be able to reassure the public as to the quality of the air they are breathing," Goldstein said.

On three occassions in late November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did operate air monitors at Floyd Bennett field in Brooklyn. The state put three monitors in nearby neighborhoods as well.

They were testing the air while debris from the storm was burned. The state said the air quality was up to federal standards.

But Goldstein said the testing was far from adequate.

"That's a different purpose and different kind of monitoring from the kind of air quality monitoring that the folks in Rockaway expect," he said.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which operates the air monitors, said the department is in the process of identifying sites for three local monitors that would be placed in the Rockaways, Lower Manhattan and on Staten Island.

She said the air monitors would arrive next week.

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