Last week a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal District Court charged EPA and its former head, Christie Whitman, with “a shockingly deliberate indifference to human health” when she issued reassuring statements about air quality downtown that proved to be misleading. “As a result,” according to the lawsuit, a large group of New Yorkers exposed “to hazardous substances for over two years is left with the expense of full and proper cleanup of their residences and workplaces, and is faced with potentially serious long-term health effects.”

The suit asks the court to compel EPA to test for hazardous substances in workplaces, schools and residences and clean up any hazardous substances that are discovered (previously, EPA tested only in residences where the resident requested testing). The suit also asks that EPA reimburse anyone for testing and cleaning that should have been done by EPA. And it asks that the federal government fund an independent medical monitoring program for anyone exposed to the air in Lower Manhattan.

The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed by a dozen people who live, work or go to school in Lower Manhattan or nearby Brooklyn. Six of the plaintiffs are residents, four have workplaces or businesses in Lower Manhattan and two were students at Stuyvesant high school, which is four blocks from Ground Zero.