In my 35 years of working in the field, beginning with Love Canal, I have never seen such irresponsible behavior by EPA headquarters. Yes, there has been many cases where EPA did not act responsibly but this is by far the worst.
In St. Louis, Missouri waste from the Manhattan Project has sat throughout the community for more than 20 years. The West Lake Superfund site contains tons of this highly radioactive wastes. Over 20 years not much has been done about cleaning up the wastes, except studies.
Today, the landfill adjoining the Manhattan waste site is burning and the fire is moving toward the radioactive wastes. What will happen when the fire and radioactive wastes meet? No one knows.
That however, if the background of the situation. In the fore ground is USEPA’s mismanagement of the sites. Everyone right up to the regional administrator has been “transferred.” Transfers is what government does instead of firing people.
In a recent meeting with local community leaders, EPA staff from headquarters and the region EPA refused to talk about the fire moving toward the radioactive wastes. EPA staff also refused to even consider the relocation of families downwind of the smoke that often bellow’s from the site. EPA staff was like those silly dolls where you pull the string and they say the same things over and over again.
This mismanagement of the site and situation is a direct result of incompetency and has created an even larger problem. It will be two years before the new cleanup plan and barrier will be defined and then it must go through public comments. Not a shovel will be moving around the site for two plus years.
Why is this important? Because toxic smoke rises from the site and into the neighborhood especially Spanish Village on a regular basis. No one can put the uncontrolled fire out. That is what the state and federal government is saying. The fire will burn for years to come.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is only willing to transfer inept staff and won’t take a single step to assist the community. Today she is refusing to meet with local leaders who will travel to Washington, D.C. next week after raising travel costs from bake sales. They want to tell their story and plead for help. Their children are sick and their families are trapped.
Throughout my years of work in CHEJ I’ve been disappointed and frustrated by EPA but never have I been told that the community leaders will never get a meeting with the Administrator. Never get this and never get that. “We (staff below her level of authority) make the decisions not McCarthy.” So according to these people who work under Gina they have the final say. I wonder if she knows that. So according to them there is nowhere to appeal the lower staff decisions.
Its past time for Gina McCarthy gets her Superfund program and staff in order. If I as CHEJ’s Director received negative comments about my staff I would certainly talk to those who are unhappy about staff’s behavior and performance not just get rid of bad apples.