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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/WTC Fallout

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on how scientists are using the World Trade Center tragedy to study geology in the New York Harbor.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: the story of what happened when the Superfund stigma came to Silver Valley, Idaho. First, this note on emerging science from Jessica Penney.


PENNEY: When the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, it covered lower Manhattan in ash and left a layer of sediment at the bottom of the Hudson River. Scientists now hope that this ash layer may help them learn more about the geology of the New York Harbor.

A team of researchers from University of Massachusetts in Boston took river-bottom sediment samples at two unused piers on the lower west side of Manhattan one month after the disaster. They found unusual concentrations of calcium, strontium and sulfur. These are all elements found in gypsum drywall and in ash from the Twin Towers.

They are still trying to determine how much of the ash fell from the sky onto the river, and how much washed into the water after rainstorms later in September. This distinct layer of chemicals could wash out to sea. But the researchers say it may remain on the bottom of the river and become a permanent geological marker of the tragedy.

Having a clear and distinct sediment layer from a specific event will allow the researchers to learn more about the movement of particles in the harbor. The researchers went back to the Hudson last July and took more samples from different locations. They are analyzing the data in what they say will become an ongoing effort to monitor the fate of the World Trade Center ash. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Jessica Penney.


CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Thievery Corporation “Liberation Front” The Richest Man in Babylon ESL Music (2002)]



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