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City pours water on Williamsburg-fire health worries

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Concerns about cancer-causing chemicals released by a massive warehouse fire that is still smoldering on the Williamsburg waterfront are overblown, officials said at a town-hall meeting on Monday night.

Health, fire, and sanitation department officials gathered to tell Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents not to worry about the smoke that blanketed the neighborhoods for several days as the fire raged in the CitiStorage facility on Kent Avenue between N. 10th and N. 11th streets. The toxicity was limited to the first day, Jan. 31, and is a drop in the bucket compared to all the foul stuff Brooklynites breathe in every day, a health department honcho said.

“The air was unhealthful for a day, but these are the kinds of events that happen throughout the year as a result of us being bathed in air pollution,” said Daniel Kass, a deputy commissioner for the department.

The meeting was called in response to outcry from activists who said the city botched the response by waiting 14 hours to notify locals to stay indoors with their windows closed. Kass acknowledged that was a screw-up.

“The air quality was bad earlier in the day and it would have been better to get that advisory out earlier,” he said.

The agitated locals are also demanding the city test for dioxins, which are carcinogenic, in the ash left by the fire. But officials said that the chemicals are everywhere, and would show up in tests whether or not there had been a fire. That didn’t satisfy one organizer.

“We do not want to just hear that it is okay,” said activist Emily Gallagher, a board member of the group Neighbors Allied for Good Growth.

A petition calling for the city to investigate its response to this fire and to develop new major-fire-response protocol going forward has garnered 1,761 signatures. It also demands that the city record and publicize air-quality data. Gallagher said the data is key to understanding toxins’ long-term effects.

“We want actual data so that we know what is safe now and what will be safe 10 years from now,” she said.

Fire officials at the meeting said it will be several more weeks before investigators determine the cause and origin of the fire.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Updated 2:19 pm, February 11, 2015
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Reasonable discourse

girl on a stoop from Greenpoint says:
Glad we are all safe, kind of reminds me of the oil spill. Don't worry you are all safe it will never effect you. Guess we know better now!
Feb. 10, 2015, 11:04 am
ty from pps says:
i'm staying inside the house.
Feb. 10, 2015, 11:06 am
Elizabeth from Prospect Heights says:
Who is this deputy commissioner Daniel Kass? I will presume he is just not well-spoken, because this is not only disturbing, it's nonsensical: "The air was unhealthful for a day, but these are the kinds of events that happen throughout the year as a result of us being bathed in air pollution." These events happen throughout the year? They, these events, are the result of being bathed in air pollution? I am thinking this was the result of arson, myself. So pollution causes arson? And yes, I think this monstrosity of a public health-harming event has been handled abysmally by our public officials. I realize it's not another 9/11, but I'll never forget the soot coming into my apt in Prospect Heights after it, and the little pieces of paper littering my window sill, and not once being told, shut your windows on this otherwise beautiful and warm, sunshiny day. I have asthma now, ,and I can't help but think 9/11 and the air quality are solely to blame.
Feb. 10, 2015, 1:21 pm
Barbara from Wilbg Nth Side says:
My Sister Lives at Berry St on the Nth side and already has Lung Cancer. I'm sure her surgeon would disagree with these idiots. She has been Gasping for breath ever since the fire started. The smoke and Toxins are very bad for someone who has Cancer. This could cause a Flare Up again. It's bad for ANYONE for the length of time is was billowing through the air. I love the attitude that because we are Use To inhaling crap, What's a little more. Are they kidding with that attitude.
Feb. 10, 2015, 3:23 pm

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