Long after 9-11, some people say the dust is still making them sick. Now they want the EPA to do something about it.

So is the EPA. "I'm very hopeful this work-group meeting will get us into the homestretch so we can resolve outstanding issues," Brown says.

Who knows what will come of the effort? The agency could revise its plan, or not. Things could unravel, or not. Many people expect the EPA to undertake some type of testing, if only to show that it has acted. But whether the sampling plan will provide answers about the full extent of WTC-related pollution is anyone's guess.

Advocates don't sound optimistic. After all, they note, the decision rests with the EPA—and the White House. And toxic Trade Center dust seems like one of many environmental causes the Bush administration has ignored, despite evidence. "It's a hard fight," Mattei says, "when you have a government that doesn't listen to science and doesn't want to admit it did anything wrong."

A 9-11 victim: Alex Sanchez fell ill after cleaning office buildings downtown.
photo: Steven Sunshine
A 9-11 victim: Alex Sanchez fell ill after cleaning office buildings downtown.

No one understands the consequences of this more than Sanchez. Every day, as he struggles with his health, he says he's reminded of how the administration first failed New Yorkers. And as he's become more active in the EPA fight, he's reminded of how the agency continues to fail the city. If it had come through for people, he asks, wouldn't the testing and cleanup have been finished long ago?

"I'm really disgusted by it," he says. "It's shameful."

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