Trials & Litigation

9/11 Rubble Can Stay in Landfill, Federal Judge Says

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A federal judge in Manhattan has dismissed a lawsuit brought by families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. It had sought a court order requiring more than a million tons of rubble that may contain some human remains to be moved from a garbage dump and searched more carefully.

Saying in a written opinion that the city had acted responsibly in a difficult and complex situation, and that there is no legal remedy for the wrong that has been done to the victims’ families, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled yesterday that the rubble could stay at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, reports Reuters.

World Trade Center Families for a Proper Burial, the plaintiff in the case, had sought to have the rubble, which has been sifted multiple times, removed to another location and used to create a cemetery, the news agency reports. However, Hellerstein found that no New York law requires this.

Because “only dust remains,” according to the judge, it isn’t possible for families to exercise their property right to claim their loved ones’ bodies, reports the New York Times.

Norman Siegel, a lawyer for the families, said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ in Judge Hellerstein’s decision and would consider an appeal, the newspaper says. “We are not prepared to have hundreds of human remains from victims of the 9/11 attacks have their final resting place on top of a garbage dump,” he told the Times.

“About 1,100 out of the 2,749 people killed at the World Trade Center site perished without leaving a trace,” Reuters writes. “Full bodies were recovered for only 292 victims and partial remains for 1,357, sometimes only a fragment of a bone, the ruling noted.”

Although he says he has no jurisdiction to require the city to do more, Hellerstein has offered to make himself available to the families and the city to help resolve the dispute, according to the Associated Press.

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