On Friday, New York City is launching a planned three-month sifting operation at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island to search World Trade Center debris for human remains. In an e-mail to the families of victims, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Nazli Parvizi said
The city is opening a forensic mobile sifting platform at Fresh Kills in Staten Island to thoroughly evaluate the material, using the same techniques employed during the prior operation at the facility at 11 Water St. in Brooklyn.
As recently as December, a lawyer representing the city in an ongoing court battle with WTC Families for Proper Burial, who are trying to force a search of the debris, referred to the material from the WTC site as “undifferentiated dirt.” No remains have been found for 979 of the 2,752 people killed.
The families claim that the search for remains, which ended a year ahead of schedule, was never properly carried out.
Just months before his death from cancer at age 41, NYPD Sgt. Michael Ryan described the rushed and incomplete search for WTC victims at Fresh Kills: “We drove our cars right up to the landfill. We didn’t know then, nobody knew, that they were dumping truckfuls of debris from the World Trade Center. I was just handed a rake and told, ‘There’s your pile, see what you can find.'” Even Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch admitted, “I believe it virtually certain that at least some human tissue is mixed with the dirt at the Staten Island landfill.”
Anthropologists will be searching 844 cubic yards of material shipped to the landfill from the WTC area over the past two years, and passing on any “potential human remains” to the Office of the Medical Examiner for identification.
The sifting operation is expected to cost $1.4 million.