"The pulverized remains of bodies from the World Trade Center disaster site were used by city workers to fill ruts and potholes, a city contractor says in a sworn affidavit filed yesterday in Manhattan Federal Court.
Eric Beck says debris powders - known as fines - were put in a pothole-fill mixture by crews at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where more than 1.65 million tons of World Trade Center debris were deposited after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I observed the New York City Department of Sanitation taking these fines from the conveyor belts of our machines, loading it onto tractors and using it to pave roads and fill in potholes, dips and ruts," Eric Beck said.
Beck was the senior supervisor for Taylor Recycling, a private contractor hired to sift through debris trucked to Fresh Kills after the trade center attacks. Before the arrival of Taylor's equipment at Fresh Kills in October 2001, the debris was sifted manually by workers using rakes and shovels.
Beck's affidavit was filed by lawyers for the families of 9/11 victims who are suing the city in hopes of creating a formal burial place for debris that they say contains human remains.
"It's devastating," Norman Siegel, an attorney representing the families, said of Beck's statement. "When the 9/11 families found about this, they were wiped out."
The families argue that the cleanup was hurried and slipshod, with the result that more than 400,000 tons of debris weren't properly combed for human remains.
The city recently asked Manhattan Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein to dismiss the lawsuit, and Mayor Bloomberg has said he would like to turn the garbage dump into a "beautiful park."
In his first few months on the job, Beck said Taylor's mechanical sifters found 2,000 bones per day. He recalled finding "bones, fingers, skulls, feet and hands" as well as a man's chest and "the full body of a man dressed in a suit." The remains were catalogued and turned over to the city, he said."
So much for private contractors doing better work than the government is capable of. Anytime an entity is forced to move beyond its capability, corners are cut. One would have imagined though, that in this particular instance more care would have been given to identify human remains.