Missouri Department of Natural Resources

What You Don’t Know About the Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Cadmus Group, the private EPA contractor that hosted a series of meetings for MDNR related to planning the state’s future energy policies, is now a major national security consultant, and some of its execs have past ties to British Intelligence.    

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources hired Cadmus Group, a consulting firm with longstanding ties to the EPA, to hold a series of public meetings across the state in October and November 2011. The gatherings in Rolla, St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia  convened with little fanfare,  bringing together various energy sector stakeholders to establish the groundworks for future energy policy development in the state. The mix included representatives from utility companies, state and local government agencies and environmental groups.

At the time, attorney G. Tracy Meehan III, a former director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, served as a principal officer in Cadmus Group.  He is a graduate of Saint Louis University Law School. Meehan served as an assistant administrator for water at the EPA in President George H.W. Bush’s administration, and is currently an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law. He  also sits on the  Committee on the Mississippi River and Clean Water Act of the National Research Council.  Meehan was previously a member of the council’s Water Science Technology board. He headed the MDNR between 1989 to 1992 under Republican Gov. John Ashcroft, who later served as U.S. Attorney General under President George W. Bush.

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G. Tracy Meehan III

Cadmus Group, founded in 1983,  is  EPA’s prime climate change consultant with offices in Arlington, Va.  The company is named after the mythological Phoenician  prince who brought the alphabet to ancient Greece. Cadmus’ operations expanded over time and by 2012  boasted annual revenues of $69 million.

In 2016, Cadmus diversified by  buying Obsidian Analysis, a Washington, D.C.-based  national security consulting firm, which had an annual revenue of $29 million at the time of the sale.  A month before the merger was announced in February 2016 veteran CIA analyst Christopher Savos joined Obsidian Analysis’ management.

The co-founders of Obsidian Analysis are Kevin P. O’Prey and Matthew K. Travis, who formed the company in 2010. Travis was formerly president of Detica Inc., originally founded in 1971 as Smith Associates, a UK government research and defense contractor. The company now focuses on cyber intelligence gathering. It acquired DFI International, a U.S. homeland security consulting firm in 2007. DFI’s board of directors was stacked with  retired U.S. military brass and a its lawyer was formerly general counsel to the CIA. Oddly, The firm’s website appears to be an English translation based on German text.

O’Prey is former president of another branch of the same company, DFI Government Services. Detica was  purchased in 2008 by British defense giant BAE Systems and is now called  BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. 

Travis and O’Prey, the founders of Obsidian Analysis, are now vice-presidents of Cadmus Group — the EPA’s climate change consultant.

In 2006, DFI Government Services, the branch then headed by O’Prey, hired retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper to head its defense program. Prior to joining DFI, Clapper served as the director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which has its main headquarters in St. Louis. Earlier in his career he had been director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

In 2010, President Barrack Obama appointed Clapper to be the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees all the spy agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency. Clapper resigned from that post in January.

In 2013, Clapper came under criticism for allegedly lying to Congress about whether the NSA tracked telephone data of millions of American citizens. The allegations against Clapper were raised after CIA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was engaged in wide-scale surveillance operations. Snowden is now living in exile in Russia.

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Lt. Gen. James Clapper

The lines between environmental regulation and espionage have blurred.  Internet and telephone snooping are being carried out under the guise of national security. The same companies involved in dealing with terrorism threats are also involved in water quality and climate-warming issues. It is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out where one field of interest begins and the other ends.  Cadmus Group, the same company that facilitated energy-related seminars for the state of Missouri,  employs intelligence specialists in its highest ranks.

It appears as if the so-called “deep state” is embedded in the “show-me” state.

Tangled Up in Wildwood

Suburban builders plan to construct dozens of pricey houses on former hazardous-waste sites

first published in the Riverfront Times  (St. Louis) June 23, 1999, Wednesday

by C.D. Stelzer

The rugged land has resisted development for a long time, so a rural atmosphere still clings to these verdant hills, despite the encroachment of affluent subdivisions on the remaining ridgetop farms. But it would be wrong to think that nature has only now come under attack in this part of West St. Louis County.

Just off Strecker Road, in the gully washes that feed into Caulks Creek, the first of thousands of barrels of toxic waste were discovered nearly 19 years ago. The initial unearthing of the contaminated caches led one state environmental official to say at the time, “People move out here to escape pollution. This is where you find it, though.”

Eventually several hazardous-waste sites would be identified in the area by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal agency would refer to them collectively as the “Bliss-Ellisville” site.

The first half of the name refers to Russell M. Bliss, the waste hauler responsible for dumping the pollutants. Bliss’ son still lives on a Strecker Road property once owned by his father, from which the EPA only a few years ago finally removed more than 900 truckloads of dioxin-contaminated dirt in addition to an estimated 1,500-2,000 barrels of toxic chemicals. The haul included drums laden with cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The second half of the site’s name is something of a misnomer, because the locations of the Bliss farm and the other hazardous-waste sites are all outside the Ellisville municipal limits. Nowadays, much to its chagrin, all of this tainted history falls under the jurisdiction of the city of Wildwood, which was incorporated in 1995.

Wildwood residents originally voted to approve the creation of the municipality to control development, thereby ensuring that greenspace would be preserved. Now the fledgling city faces a dilemma: Two developers are asking for zoning variances so that they can wedge dozens of high-priced houses on either side of Strecker Road — on parcels of land that were once part of the Bliss-Ellisville hazardous-waste site. The next meeting on the issue is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 6, at Wildwood City Hall, 16962 Manchester Rd.

The requests to develop these two properties have dredged up a litany of questions that have never been adequately answered by EPA officials or by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Those same officials are now siding with the developers, claiming that the once highly contaminated land is no longer a threat to human health, that it is now safe enough for backyard swingsets and tomato patches.

If the city allows W.J. Byrne Builders Inc. to build Strecker Forest, 31 houses will be constructed on the 18.5-acre tract. As things stand, Byrne Builders holds an option to buy the land from its current owners, Gerald and Patricia Primm. The couple’s property is adjacent to the Bliss farm. An early EPA investigation found portions of the Primm property and three other adjacent parcels to be contaminated.

On the other side of the road, at 210 Strecker Rd., developer Larry Wurm of James Properties Inc. is proposing to build Wildwood Ridge, an 11-home development on 7.6 acres of land now owned by Jean Callahan. Her husband, Grover Callahan, worked as a truck driver for the Bliss Waste Oil Co. in the early 1970s. Before Times Beach — the most notorious of the sites contaminated by Bliss — became a household word, the EPA had already rated the Callahan property one of the most contaminated hazardous-waste sites in the nation. Although the state hastened to dispose of hundreds of barrels at the Callahan site in the early 1980s, the EPA did not close its case on the property until last September.

Wildwood currently zones the Strecker Road properties as “nonurban,” which requires a minimum lot size of 3 acres. When considering deviations from the existing zoning code, the city takes into account several factors, such as the availability of utility services, topography and road conditions, but nothing on the municipal books deals with building houses on top of former hazardous-waste sites.

“It’s a difficult position for the city,” says Joe Vujnich, Wildwood’s director of parks and planning. “We do not have the expertise that the U.S. EPA and Missouri Department of Natural Resources have. Obviously I have to depend upon them to do their job and hope that we do ours.”

Among those who doubt the EPA’s blanket endorsement is Tammy Shea, a Wildwood resident. “If they’re going to develop the Callahan property, then we need to know exactly what took place there. The version that the developer presented to Wildwood is pretty vague about what happened,” Shea says. “It’s very confusing, the fact that they’ve kind of lumped these properties together yet dealt with them differently. Why were they in such a hurry to clean up the Callahan site? They were in there in 1981, pulling out barrels and treating them differently from the rest of the waste. They didn’t take the barrels from the Bliss farm until 1996, when the incinerator was here. So why were they in such a rush to get the barrels off the Callahan property?” asks Shea.

As for developer Wurm, he believes the Callahan property has been cleaned up, but he’s counting on the findings of state and federal regulators to protect him against any future liability.

“It’s no problem. It’s clean as a whistle,” says Wurm of the Callahan property. “It’s clean as a whistle,” he repeats. “Look at the record of decision. I’ve got letters from EPA and DNR also stating that everything is cool on the property.” But Wurm says he doesn’t want to discuss the project in detail, fearing his plans will be misrepresented. “When I talked with the (St. Louis) Post-Dispatch, I got misquoted. It was an abortion. So I’ll just let the record of decision stand for itself, OK? Tom What’s-his-face at the Post-Dispatch, he didn’t have time. He didn’t want to look at all this shit. And blah, blah, blah. You got to do your homework on these pieces, otherwise you’re wasting your time.

“Nothing against journalists — some of them are my best friends,” Wurm adds.

Wurm is referring to Tom Uhlenbrock, who first reported the Wildwood development plans in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 11. Asked about Wurm’s criticism, Uhlenbrock says the developer was “bent out of shape because he wanted the article to say that the Callahan property never had any dioxin or Russell Bliss on it.” Uhlenbrock said he was unable to confirm whether dioxin had been found on the site or whether there was a Bliss connection to the property.

In 1994, the Post-Dispatch reported a dispute involving homebuyers in Turnberry Place subdivision, which abuts the Bliss farm. The buyers said they signed sales contracts without being told by their real-estate agents that their new homes were adjacent to a hazardous-waste site. Seven families sued the responsible Realtor, and they were awarded a cumulative settlement of more than $500,000. If the city approves their respective developments, Wurm and Byrne hope to avoid this legal pitfall by having buyers sign a disclosure form saying that they were told in advance of the land’s history.

The full history of the Callahan site and the others in the Caulks Creek watershed remains something of an enigma. Contacted by phone last Friday at EPA headquarters in Kansas City, Martha Steincamp, regional counsel for the EPA, could not provide details on the Bliss-Ellisville cleanups and referred all questions on the matter to Bob Feild, the agency’s project manager. Feild did not return phone calls.

From publicly released EPA documents, this much is known: In the winter of 1981-1982, the DNR and EPA excavated more than 1,200 barrels of toxic waste from the Callahan property. The cleanup crew immediately sent 592 drums to a landfill in Wright City, Mo., but more than 600 barrels were stored on-site, along with 500 cubic yards of soil. The EPA removed the remaining barrels in July 1983. The agency then backfilled the hole with the same soil that had been stored at the site. A Post-Dispatch story dated April 4, 1983, describes the 500 cubic yards of soil stored at the Callahan site as being “contaminated.”

A later EPA inspection showed that the land had subsequently subsided and would require stabilization. Despite evidence of erosion, the EPA’s investigation concluded that the “fill area of the Callahan subsite was not contaminated (and) that the original objectives of the remedial action had either been achieved through natural processes, or were no longer considered necessary due to the preference expressed by the site owner.”

Aside from groundwater contamination, the most serious threat to human health posed by the contamination at the Callahan site was airborne migration, according to the EPA. It would be better to err on the side of safety, says Shea, than risk exposing people to more hazardous waste by digging foundations on the Callahan property and inadvertently excavating a heretofore undetected layer of toxic waste. “I believe that the whole area there is littered with contamination pockets,” she says. “Sometimes it’s just best to leave well enough alone.”

Shea is being dismissed as an alarmist. Wildwood city officials have questioned her credentials, and she says a real-estate agent recently criticized the motives behind her activism. In both instances, the allegations were not based so much on environmental concerns as they were on the bottom line.

“I guess Wildwood is just going to have to look at it from a credibility standpoint,” says Shea. “What I’m going to ask is that they provide the citizens with some level of accountability, because we certainly aren’t getting it from the EPA and we shouldn’t have to depend on the developer to provide it.”

By the EPA’s count, the Bliss-Ellisville site contained at least seven separate waste-disposal locations. Sewer workers discovered the first batch of barrels on the property of the Rosalie Investment Co., near the intersection of Strecker and Clayton roads, in July 1980. The Callahan dump was discovered in August of that year.

Callahan started working for Bliss in the early 1970s, which would have been around the same time Bliss started hauling hazardous waste. After the discovery of the waste a decade later, Callahan testified in St. Louis County Circuit Court that he had used a lift truck to dump drums of waste, which Bliss had picked up at local industries, on the Callahan property. DNR officials described the location of the dump as a ravine, filled 15 feet deep with rusty barrels.

Three parties — Jean Callahan, Kisco Co. and Bliss — refused to pay for the cleanup. By 1982, the Missouri attorney general’s office had entered negotiations with two other firms, American Can and GK Technologies. Ultimately, the state accepted $94,000 in 1988 as its part of a $660,000 settlement with several companies, a fraction of the estimated overall cleanup cost.

The biggest fish appears to have either slipped off or broken the line, however. In September 1980, Gov. Joseph P. Teasdale wrote a letter to Monsanto chairman John W. Hanley, requesting that the St. Louis-based chemical company pay for the cleanup. In his bid for re-election that year, Teasdale also made a campaign stop at the Bliss-Ellisville site to again ask for Monsanto’s assistance. This time Teasdale made the plea with the TV news cameras rolling. Monsanto refused to consider the governor’s appeal, even though before a federal ban on the chemical the company had been the sole producer of PCBs in North America.

The Cayman Connection

Republic Services claims no environmental woes to snare a billion-dollar-plus loan with the help of its offshore insurer. 

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Republic Services, owner of the radioactively-contaminated West Lake Landfill in St. Louis County, scored a $1.2 billion loan from a consortium of the world’s largest banks in 2014 by assuring its lenders that the company had no environmental problems that would effect its bottom line, StlReporter has learned.

Under the terms of the agreement signed on June 30, 2014, Republic claims that “existing environmental laws and existing environmental claims” could not reasonably be expected to a have a  “material adverse effect” on the company’s operations.  “Material adverse effect” is defined in the agreement as being a change that would negatively impact “operations, business, properties, assets or conditions, financial or otherwise, of the borrower and its subsidiaries taken as a whole.”

“No Problemo”

The assurances that the company has no notable environmental headaches came despite public controversy surrounding the environmental and health hazards posed by the company’s West Lake property, an EPA Superfund site, and corresponding calls for the buyout of nearby homeowners.

To qualify for the 2014 loan, the banks required Republic to assume liability for potential environmental issues and indemnify them against claims. Republic complied to the terms by designating an offshore subsidiary — the Bom Ambiente Insurance Co. of the Cayman Islands — as the company’s insurer. Unlike most of its other subsidiaries Bom Ambiente is exempted from the terms of the loan agreement.

Aon Insurance Management, a leading captive and reinsurance company, represents Bom Ambiente Insurance through its offices in the Cayman Islands, which are located in the same posh office building as a major offshore law firm.

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Spokespersons for Republic and Aon declined to comment.

So-called “captive insurance” companies are set up by their parent corporations as a means of providing affordable risk management services based on the concept of self insurance. Many risk-prone businesses locate their in-house insurance operations in the Cayman Islands to take advantage of favorable governmental regulations and the absence of income and capital gains taxes.

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Republic Services,  one of three parties liable for the EPA-mandated cleanup, opposes removing the West Lake waste. Instead, the company favors the terms of the original 2008 record of decision calling for capping the materials in place. That proposal is being reconsidered due to public opposition.  The cost of removal is estimated at $400 million or ten times the original plan.  But there seems to be more riding on the final decision than the cost of the clean up.

The future of the company may be at stake.

The banks that signed off on the five-year loan are among the most prominent financial institutions in the world. They include: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Union Bank and SunTrust. Bank of the America, the lead lender, has committed $87 million.

The loan agreement spells out how Republic can borrow the money over the course of the agreement through regular loans, advances on credit, or so-called, short-term “swing-line” loans. The agreement does not stipulate the purposes for which the Republic uses the borrowed money. But Bridgeton Landfill and Rock Road Industries, two Republic Services-owned companies connected to the troubled West Lake property, are among the hundreds of Republic subsidiaries that are a party to the loan agreement.

In Schedule 5.12 of the loan agreement, Republic says it has no issues to report related to environmental matters. But the company’s February 2016 Security and Exchange Commission 10-K report discloses that for 2014 Republic accrued more than $227 million in costs coping with environmental matters at its troubled West Lake property.

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In short, the company readily acknowledged the high cost of addressing environmental matters at West Lake to the SEC earlier this year, but denied any problems would have a “material adverse effect” in paying back its debt in the 2014 loan agreement. To do otherwise would be a breach of the loan agreement and could be considered a default.

A Slow-Motion Train Wreck

Republic Services acquired the environmentally-troubled Bridgeton and West Lake Landfills in 2008 when it merged with Allied Waste Services. The impacted landfills are now closed, but Republic continues to operate a transfer station at the same location, which has been an EPA Superfund site since 1990.

The history of radioactive contamination at West Lake dates back to 1973, when the waste was illegally dumped. Federal, state and local regulatory authorities have been aware of the problem for more than 40 years, but failed to act.

The inaction made matters worse.

In December 2010, Republic told the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that an underground fire was burning at the Bridgeton Landfill, which is directly next to the West Lake Landfill and part of the same Superfund site. The stench from the fire raised dormant public concerns.

By February 2013, MDNR had cited Republic for noxious odors. The next month the Missouri Attorney General sued the company for violations of state environmental laws. That case is still pending. A negotiated agreement between the state and Republic Services to build a barrier to stop the fire from advancing closer to the radioactive waste is also stalled, as is federal legislation that would hand the cleanup over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

During these delays, the fire has moved closer to the radioactive material.

Meantime, the MDNR and the EPA have confirmed that radioactive materials are known to have migrated off site, further contaminating air, soil and water. Private lawsuits have also been filed against the company.

To those unfamiliar with the world of high finance, the reporting discrepancies and ongoing issues at West Lake would seem enough to raise eyebrows among Republic’s individual and institutional investors, including  firms tied to billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

But that hasn’t happened.

Apparently, Republic’s word is its bond among stock market traders. From a business perspective, environmental stewardship and standard accounting practices are based on the letter of the law. West Lake be damned. After all, the five-year, $1.2 billion loan is a fraction of  Republic’s long-term debt, which stands at $7.5 billion and counting.

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Who Says There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

Aerial view of West Lake and Bridgeton Landfills. Photo © Stella Maris Productions

Aerial view of West Lake and Bridgeton Landfills. Photo © Stella Maris Productions

A former DNR official has lost his appetite for politics as usual in Missouri.

Between 2012 and January 2014, Dan Norris put up with the stench from the Bridgeton Landfill. It was part of his job. The then-environmental specialist for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources was living out of a suitcase at a hotel near Interstate 270 and St. Charles Rock Road much of that time, while directing air monitoring efforts for the state at the troubled Bridgeton Landfill.

The experience allowed him to understand the conditions that many people in North St. Louis County have endured for years. Since 2010, an underground fire has been burning at the landfill, which is directly next to the radioactively contaminated West Lake Landfill. During his tenure, Norris also gained insight into why the landfill continues to smolder. At the top of his list is politics, and the inability of the DNR to resist the influence of special interests.

After submitting his resignation, Norris released a letter on January 10 condemning his former agency for its “cozy” relationship with Republic Services, the owner of the landfill.
“For a while in 2012-2013, the landfill owner(s) referred to themselves and DNR staff involved with the landfill as “Team Bridgeton,” wrote Norris.

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The overall camaraderie is evident in emails obtained by StlReporter. Government regulators and company officials refer to each other by their first names in the messages, and permits were issued in a cavalier manner. The atmosphere went beyond mere cooperative collegiality. In advance of a meeting with landfill owners in December 2012,  DNR official Brenda Ardrey, acting as a virtual waitress, emailed various public officials a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop menu and asked for their orders. “Republic Services has agreed to pick up the tab for lunch,” she wrote. It’s unclear whether Ardrey received any tips, but the state does pay her more $53,000 a year, according to the Missouri Blue Book.

Norris’ relationship, however, appears to have been less hospitality oriented. His signature appears on a July 23, 2012 notice that cited Republic with seven violations, including burning waste in a manner that is detrimental to the health and safety or employees and others.

Notice of Violation, July 23, 2012

Notice of Violation, July 23, 2012

Since then matters have only gotten worse. After radioactive material was found to be near the path of a proposed barrier to stop the subsurface fire from advancing, Republic put the skids on the project, and DNR has done nothing to speed up the process.

“The area involved in the smoldering has increased in size since the start of the event, there is still no solid isolation plan, groundwater continues to be contaminated, and soil gas migration continues to pose a potential risk to nearby structures,” wrote Norris.

Attempts to reach Norris by phone and email failed. Arbrey referred a request for information to the department’s public affairs officer, who was said to be in a meeting and unavailable for comment.  For its part, Republic Services has made numerous public pronouncements that there are no safety problems with the landfill.

Meanwhile, the fire burns on.  — C.D. Stelzer

Update: for a response from former DNR Environmental Specialist Dan Norris, click here.

DANGEROUS GROUND

Doxins aren’t the only problem in Missouri. PCB contamination continues to be overlooked or denied by both public regulators and Monsanto

BY C.D. STELZER

first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Feb. 14, 1996

First, hundreds of birds started dropping from the
rafters like so many miners' canaries. Then dogs and
cats began to die. By September 1971, seven horses had
perished at the Shenandoah Stables in Moscow Mills, Mo.
Before the scourge abated, scores more would die. 
     Humans also succumbed, developing flu-like symptoms
and skin rashes. On August 22, Judy Piatt, the co-owner
of the stable, admitted her 6-year-old daughter to St.
Louis Children's Hospital. The girl, who played
frequently inside the equestrian arena that summer, had
lost 50 percent of her body weight and was hemorrhaging
from the bladder. On a hunch, her mother filled an empty
Miracle Whip jar with dirt from the arena floor. That
soil ended up at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
in Atlanta, where in 1974 scientists confirmed it
contained trichlorophenol and a related waste byproduct
-- 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) -- commonly
known as dioxin. 
     After the CDC announced its find, dioxin became the
buzzword that grabbed headlines, spurred by its links to
Agent Orange and the Vietnam War. The resulting clamor
allowed the additional discovery of highly-toxic
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the same soil to
escape the media's attention.
     This single detail is a clue in a mystery that
challenges the conventional history of Missouri's long
sordid affair with hazardous waste. It also raises
doubts about soil characteristics at other sites, the
origins of the toxins and the consequences of the
Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plans to burn
them soon at Times Beach.
     The legal authority for the EPA and the Missouri
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to mandate
incineration hinges on protecting public health. But
test burns conducted in November show problems 
foreshadowing their plans, including the malfunctioning
of an important anti-pollution device. The EPA's
inability to fully account for PCBs and other pollutants
at nearly one third of the designated cleanup sites adds
another potential danger to  an already uncertain
combustion equation. 
     These are among the reasons the Times Beach Action
Group (TBAG), a group opposed to the
incinerator,contends the consent decree authorizing the
Eastern Missouri Superfund cleanup is void. TBAG also
asserts the EPA failed to address PCBs in its 1994 risk
assessment.The activists' position is supported by a
recent report prepared by the Environmental Compliance
Organization (ECO), the firm hired through an EPA grant
to represent citizens interests. In addition,  Rep. Jim
Talent (R-Chesterfield) has raised questions about PCBs
at Times Beach, and again asked the EPA to delay
incineration so alternative technologies can be given
more consideration.      Last week, the congressman's voice
was muted, however, by the release of a General
Accounting Office study favoring incineration. The
decision corresponds with the deregulatory mood of the
Republican-controlled Congress, and the trend of
delisting Superfund sites. 
    Turning a blind eye on the environment may be in
vogue  among certain special interests, but an
investigation by the Riverfront Times has turned up
long-neglected facts that warrant consideration.
     * No PCBs were found at the facility in Southwest
Missouri, where the dioxin in the St. Louis area
supposedly originated. This means PCBs that are present
came from another source or sources. Monsanto
exclusively manufactured PCBs in the United States until
1977. 
     * As early as 1972, an EPA official informed
Monsanto about PCB levels at the Bliss Waste Oil
Co.tanks in Sauget, Ill., according to a copy of a
correspondence obtained by the RFT. This contradicts the
EPA's  own chronology. 
     *Russell Bliss, the owner of the company blamed for
the dioxin contamination in Eastern Missouri, signed at
least two contracts to haul hazardous waste from
Monsanto facilities in the mid-1970s. In 1977, a Bliss
driver dumped hazardous waste at a site in Jefferson
County. The sludge included PCBs that state officials
suspected came from Monsanto's research lab here. The
cleanup took six weeks and cost taxpayers approximately
$515,000.
    * More recently, the EPA failed to provide relevant
information to the independent laboratory hired to
analyze soils from the Eastern Missouri dioxin sites. In
an appendix to the federal agency's 1994 risk
assessment, the lab cites multiple instances of missing
data, and states  PCBs were found at four locations that
had not previously been listed by the EPA. 

The predisposition of federal and state regulators to
underplay PCB contamination has led some local
environmentalists to muse that governmental concerns lie
not so much in protecting the environment as in
destroying evidence. 
     The Times Beach dioxin incinerator near Eureka is
scheduled to begin burning some 100,000 cubic yards of
dioxin-contaminated soil from 27 sites in Eastern
Missouri perhaps as soon as March. Plans for the burn
are proceeding despite the independent ECO report, which
questions whether current EPA methodology for measuring
stack emissions "leads to a vast underestimation of
risk." The citizens watchdog group also warns that
because of ambient levels already found in the
environment "further exposure by populations to any
dioxin should be avoided."  ECO concludes that "(EPA)
data ... is insufficient to demonstrate that the sites
have been adequately characterized to all potential
constituents and the various congeners of dioxin."
     In a pointed 3-page letter sent to the EPA regional
administrator Dennis Grams on Dec. 27, Rep. Talent takes
issue with the legality of burning PCBs without a proper
permit. In addition, he asks why sampling data for some
of the sites is missing. 
     These are all legitimate concerns. Incinerating
PCBs can actually create dangerous dioxins and furans.
Nevertheless, the EPA and the Missouri Department of
Natural Resources (DNR), say the project poses
absolutely no threat to human health. 
      "We're not saying that PCBs are not dangerous, but
it's an issue of risk, and the risk associated with very
low levels of PCBs is not significant," says Feild.
"It's not like PCBs are not suitable for incineration,
that's the way you deal with them." 
     For its part, Monsanto denies any poisonous past
relationship with Bliss, the man responsible for
spreading the waste. "To the best of our knowledge
Bliss's company did not haul PCB or dioxin-contaminated
material from any of our St. Louis area facilities,"
says Monsanto spokeswoman Diane Herndon. "We're not
saying that we didn't use him, but to the best of our
knowledge, we don't believe that he hauled any PCB or
dioxin-contaminated material." 
    Nevertheless, PCBs are undeniably present in some of
the contaminated soils. There existence is a toxic
subject that remained buried until the environmentalists
uncovered it. "It wasn't until we discovered the
Kimbrough report, which showed very high levels of PCBs
in the arena soils, that they (the EPA) gave us any site
specific data at all," says Steve Taylor, an organizer
for TBAG.     
     Taylor is alluding to a scientific article by
Renate D. Kimbrough, a physician for CDC. She first
wrote about dioxin and PCB contamination at Shenandoah
Stables in 1975. Kimbrough then cited dioxin as the
cause of the Shenandoah Stables catastrophe -- but she
also said the contaminated soil contained up to 1,590
parts per million (ppm) of PCBs. The federal cleanup
standard for PCBs has been set at 50 ppm. 
     Earlier this month, Feild of the EPA admitted that
priority pollutant data was missing on six of the 27
sites that are a part of the Times Beach cleanup, nearly
one third of the total. This revelation follows the
release of EPA data sheets to environmentalists that
were missing PCB test results. The gaps in PCB data
raises serious doubts about the status of hundreds of
other locations in Eastern Missouri that are known or
suspected to have been sprayed by the Bliss Waste Oil
Co.       
     "If they (EPA) are saying they didn't test for
those (pollutants) or a percentage of the them are lost,
I find that hard to believe," says Nina Thompson, a
spokeswoman for the DNR. But when asked if the DNR is
aware of all the sites that Bliss may have sprayed with
PCBs, the department spokeswoman replied: "Have we gone
out and tested every site in Missouri? No, we didn't do
that." Instead, the state agency depended on the EPA.
But despite the EPA's missing data, Thompson is
confident regulators followed  proper protocol and
tested for required priority pollutants other than
dioxin. 
     Nevertheless, there is a chance contaminated sites
may have been overlooked. According to research by
former DNR official Linda Elaine James: "State and
federal officials ... investigated over 375 sites in the
St. Louis area based on information that Bliss may have
sprayed there. About 45 of these sites were never
sampled because the investigation could not substantiate
Bliss at the site. Thirty were ruled out without
sampling because they appeared to have been sprayed by
Bliss after 1972 or 1973, the assumption being that
Bliss had used up all of the (dioxin-contaminated)
wastes by this time. Over one hundred (other) sites were
sampled and dioxin was not discovered." But the PCB
levels at these locations remains, for the most part, an
enigma. 
     Interestingly, the environmentalists were not the
first to be denied information on PCB levels at the
Eastern Missouri dioxin sites. Mantech Environmental
Technology Inc., an independent laboratory that analyzes
soils for the EPA,  refers to missing data in an
appendix to The appendix also states that four different
Aroclors --  Monsanto's commercial name for PCBs -- were
found at sites, where the compounds had not been
originally indicated on spreadsheets. 
     "It's disturbing that these data are not available
given the amount of money that they (the EPA) spent in
the early 80s gathering samples," says Taylor.  "It's
rather like going to the moon and losing the rocks at
taxpayers' expense. It would appear that they were
trying to keep certain other sources of pollution from
public scrutiny."  

All Roads Lead to Verona, or do they?

When CDC officials began investigating at Shenandoah
Stables, they suspected either PCBs or nerve gas. After
finding dioxin, however, health officials turned their
attention toward Agent Orange, a defoliant used in 
Vietnam. Information from the Defense Department
narrowed the search to four sources, including Monsanto.
Syntex, the company ultimately held liable for the Times
Beach cleanup had purchased Hoffman-Taff Inc., one of
the suspected firms. Hoffman in turn implicated the
Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Co. (NEPACCO),
which leased part of its Verona, Mo.plant. NEPACCO
created dioxin as a waste byproduct of hexachlorophene.
Hoffman-Taff had hired another responsible party,
Independent Petrochemical Co. (IPC) of St. Louis, to
dispose of the toxic material. IPC sub-contracted the
work to Russell Bliss.
     In six 1971 trips, Bliss hauled more than 18,000
gallons of dioxin-tainted sludge from Verona to his 
Frontenac storage tanks. His drivers then sprayed the
toxic mixture as a dust-suppressant on horse arenas,
unpaved roads, truck terminals, and parking lots.
     However, the CDC's  soil analysis from Shenandoah
Stables, raises questions about this standard version of
events. That's because tests conducted on contents of
the  "black tank" at Verona, where all of the
contaminants allegedly originated, indicated the
presence of dioxin -- but no PCBs. If PCBs found at
Shenandoah didn't come from Verona, then there had to
have been one or more other sources.
     One of the conclusions of the ECO report is "there
is insufficient data to support the contention that a
single tank in Verona, Mo. is the sole source for all
dioxin contamination." Besides Monsanto, Bliss collected
waste from:  Union Electric, Wagner Electric,  Signet
Graphic, Benjamin Moore (Paint Co.), Edwin Cooper,
White-Rogers, Jackes-Evans,  American Can, General Cable
, Carter Carburetor and the Orchard Corp, according to
court records. Some, if not all of these companies,
generated PCB-laden waste.
      In September 1971, after she had sued Bliss, 
Piatt, the co-owner of Shenandoah Stables, and her
partner Frank Hampel began tailing Bliss drivers on
their daily routes. Their surveillance would continue
for more than year.  During that time, the pair
sometimes disguised themselves: Hampel donning a woman's
wig and Piatt wearing a man's cowboy hat. 
     The undercover work paid off. The pair observed
Bliss' drivers wantonly dumping waste into streambeds,
and fields.  On one occasion, Piatt watched a Bliss
driver pick up a load at the Monsanto facility in St.
Peters, Mo. and dump it in a Mississippi River slough.
In another instance, she witnessed chemical wastes being
dumped at Times Beach.
     In late 1972, Piatt compiled an 18-page report on
her investigation. Her dossier cited 16 different
companies whose waste had been dumped by Bliss drivers.
Piatt's list also included 31 locations that had been
sprayed. She submitted the report to the EPA, DNR and
Missouri Department of Health (DOH).  
     Piatt's case would reveal that one of Bliss'
Frontenac tanks contained PCBs. A decade later, the
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency found
trichloroethylene and PCBs in a Bliss storage tank in
Sauget. 
     Private tests conducted in Times Beach in late 1982
detected not only dioxin and PCBs, but ethyl benzene,
acetone,toluene, xylene and other hazardous substances.
Depositions from 1972 through 1988 also indicate Bliss
and his drivers picked up waste products at the Monsanto
research laboratories on North Lindbergh and the
company's silicon wafer plant in St. Peters. Bliss
claimed his company disposed of its toxic cargo at a
landfill in East St. Louis. But the loads didn't always
make it there.
     Most telling -- Bliss himself testified on Nov. 20,
1972  that he had sprayed the streets of Times Beach.
     Despite this early knowledge, nothing happened. It
would be 10 more years before any attempt would be made
to deal with the problems. Unfortunately, the CDC
informed state authorities erroneously that dioxin had
an estimated half-life of only one year. While officials
waited for the disaster to disappear on its own accord,
the dilemma would be compounded by the excavations and
movements of contaminated dirt to other sites, including
residential properties.
     "There's clearly PCBs everywhere," says Gerson
Smoger,an attorney who has been involved in Times Beach
litigation."They didn't test, because dioxin was the
chemical of concern. They weren't looking for it, but it
was there -- everybody knew it was there. So to say it's
not there is ludicrous." Originally,the Times Beach
personal injury suits included Monsanto as a defendant,
Smoger says, but the plaintiffs' attorneys later dropped
Monsanto because "it complicated the case too much."  
     Bliss' widespread activities also complicated
cleanup efforts.In 1983, Fred Lafser, then-director of
the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) told
The New York Times: "The feeling is why go look for more
problems when we do not have the staff to solve what we
know about?" More revealing are comments Lafser made to
the RFT that same year. "Most of our hazardous waste
problems (in Missouri) can be traced back to him (Bliss)
-- including problems with PCBs, solvents and inks,you
name it." 
     The EPA now defends its inaction by claiming
ignorance. "We didn't even discover Times Beach or any
of the Eastern Missouri dioxin sites until after 1980,"
says Feild, the agency's current Times Beach project
manager. "There was no work being done except for the
Centers for Disease Control, who were investigating some
horse deaths starting in about 1974."
      But there is evidence that both the EPA and
Monsanto took an early interest in PCB contamination in
eastern Missouri relating to Bliss' activities. In one
letter dated Sept. 12, 1972, an EPA official provided
details to a Monsanto executive about testing for PCBs
at Bliss' oil storage tanks in Sauget, Ill. The letter
is from W.L. Banks, chief of the EPA's Oil and Hazardous
Substance Branch. It is addressed to W.B. Papageorge at
the Monsanto research labs on North Lindbergh. 
     When asked to comment on the Papageorge letter,
Herndon of Monsanto read this statement prepared by the
company's law department: "The 1972 letter to Papageorge
in no way implies that Bliss was hauling Monsanto PCBs.
Since PCBs had only recently been identified as an
environmental concern, it might be very likely that
Bliss and many waste haulers would have PCBs in their
storage containers at that stage."     
      The EPA letter to Papageorge is, nevertheless,
noteworthy given the Monsanto executive's background.
During  his more than 30-year-career with the company,
Papageorge managed a PCB plant. By 1972, he had moved up
the corporate ladder to become Monsanto's director of
environmental control. 

The Dittmer Incident     

A record of the fire is preserved in a routine report
filed away at the Cedar Hill Fire Protection District
headquarters in Jefferson County.  
     There is nothing ordinary, however, about the call
the rural department received at 5:21 p.m. on March 11,
1977. When firefighters arrived at the Albert Harris
property near the town of Dittmer, they were greeted by
a toxic maelstrom. Gusty 25 mph winds fanned flames that
licked the sides of a recently dug pit near a small
tributary of Calvey Creek. The searing heat inside the
10-foot-deep trench had caused toxic waste drums near
the edge of the excavation to explode. Investigators
later found 125 other  barrels scattered at the site.
Working in the rain, 20 firefighters battled the blaze
almost an hour before bringing it under control. 
      After receiving complaints about more pollution
problems at the same location, the DNR and EPA began
investigating lot number 21 of the Greenbriar
subdivision. Testing of the pit's contents revealed high
concentrations of PCBs  --  up to 20,000 ppm. The
agencies found other toxins at the site, including
bromophenol chlorophenol, a chemical produced only by
Monsanto in 1964, according to the EPA. 
     "It was a real chemical soup," recalls Robert
Zeman, a former DNR official who now works for the
Metropolitan Sewer District. "This pit was just about
every color of the rainbow from stuff that was in it.
The guy who was bringing the materials out there was an
employee of Russell Bliss. In the ensuing investigations
and discussions, (we determined) that Bliss was likely
involved in the activity." 
      Bliss later testified that bottles found in the
toxic pit came from Monsanto's research lab. When asked
from what major source he acquired his hazardous waste,
Bliss stated: "Oh, I would say Monsanto." The waste oil
hauler said that his company was regularly paid $200 to
pick up a 40-barrel load from Monsanto's research lab.
The cleanup of the Dittmer site cost the federal
government more than $500,000.
     Despite indications that much of the Dittmer waste
came from Monsanto, the chemical company is certain the
PCBs did not. "Monsanto's records indicate that PCBs
were not in the materials mishandled by Bliss," says
Herndon, the Monsanto spokeswoman. 
     The composition of the waste will never be known,
however, because Bliss took steps to literally coverup
the incident.After the DNR discovered the site, the
waste oil hauler pumped out an estimated 4,000 gallons
of sludge without the state agency's approval, and then
hired a contractor to fill in the pit. The nearby creek
continued to be polluted by runoff from the buried
wastes, however. So despite further warnings by the DNR
to leave the site alone, Bliss returned again before
dawn one morning. The same contractor opened the pit
back up. Bliss, his son and one employee then hauled
away contaminated soil and  barrels. When neighbors
tried to follow one of the trucks, another Bliss vehicle
blocked their way. 
     At a 1977 DNR hearing, Monsanto bills of lading
signed by a Bliss driver were entered as evidence. The
receipts identify the wastes from the Monsanto research
lab as "one truckload (of) organic non-toxic solvents."
"I just tell them I don't want nothing toxic; that's why
I have them put on the tickets non-toxic," Bliss
testified. 
     The transcript of a later hearing , however,  shows
that the "non-toxic" classification contradicted the
wording of legally binding agreements between Monsanto
and Bliss.
      In 1983,  the DNR's Hazardous Waste Management
Commission met to consider granting Russell Bliss's son
a hazardous waste hauler's permit. At the meeting, the
DNR brought up the Dittmer incident as a reason not to
issue the license. The agency also submitted two
contracts, from 1975 and 1976, between Russell Bliss and
Monsanto. According to one contract: 
     "...Organic solvents waste from the Research Center
consists of ... trace amounts of almost any conceivable
chemical (organic or inorganic). ... Contents of the
drum are accumulated from literally hundreds of
laboratory samples and organic and inorganic solvents
present in the drum are not known or controlled. Since
it is probable that the total content of any particular
drum is at least as toxic as the solvent mixture,
CONTRACTOR SHOULD EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION IN THE
HANDLING OF THE WASTE. CONTRACTOR IS HEREBY WARNED THAT
SUCH WASTE MAY BE TOXIC. ..." 
     In addition, the contracts stipulated Bliss
possessed necessary skills to perform his duties, that
he would abide by the law and dispose of the waste
properly. It is evident the waste hauler broke the terms
of the contract. It is also arguable that Monsanto's
actions were not above reproach. Even if the company
followed the letter of the law, it still made the
dubious assumption Bliss was qualified to handle such
hazardous materials in the first place. There is no
proof the chemical company asked the waste hauler about
his qualifications.  If Monsanto had inquired, Bliss
might have responded as candidly as he did later to the
DNR. The waste hauler told the agency his knowledge of
chemistry amounted to an understanding of BS&W --
"bullshit and water," a term he used to describe
adulterated waste oil.  Bliss also stated he had only
two methods of testing the contents of the waste he
hauled:  "I sometimes taste it, or put it on a napkin
and see if it will burn." 

The Politics of a Hazardous Waste Coverup

Rep. Talent is not the first congressman to sound the
alarm over PCBs. Rep. William F. Ryan (D-NY) raised the
issue in 1970. Monsanto officials responded to Ryan by
saying they were "well aware of the concern" over PCBs
(see sidebar). The company also said steps had been
taken to insure public safety, but denied knowledge of
whether any PCBs had been released from its Krummrich
plant in Sauget. The next year, Monsanto began burning
PCBs at a liquid injection incinerator at its Sauget
facility.The burning of the toxic waste continued for
most of the next decade.    
     The PCB controversy resurfaced again in 1980, when
Missouri Gov. Joseph P. Teasdale made a campaign stop
near Ellisville, at a place that is now one of the EPA's
27-designated dioxin sites in Eastern Missouri. With the
TV news cameras rolling, the top elected official in the
state railed against the hazardous waste dumped at the
location. Teasdale, however, directed his attack at PCBs
not dioxin, and his lambaste placed the onus for the
toxic contamination on Monsanto.
     "I request that you help pay the cost of the
sampling and analysis work, and that if PCBs are
discovered that you pay for the cleanup of the site,"
the governor told Monsanto. Newspaper coverage of the
event failed to divulge that the site in question was on
or near property owned by Bliss. Teasdale wanted
Monsanto to pay for the cleanup of three Bliss
Ellisville sites, and all other PCB-contaminated
locations in Missouri. Monsanto later claimed their own
analysis showed insignificant PCB levels at the
Ellisville sites. The company refused to consider
covering the cost of other PCB cleanups. 
     In 1981, the DNR paid to dispose of more than 100
barrels at the Ellisville/Bliss sites that contained
traces of PCBs. According to a report issued by the EPA
last summer, more waste is still buried there.   
     Teasdale was not alone in his attempt to make
political hay out Missouri's hazardous waste crisis. On
Oct. 31, 1982, while running for re-election,  Sen. John
Danforth (R-Mo.) announced a promising new method for
cleaning contaminated soils. The technique involved
spraying the effected areas with sodium hydroxide and
polyethylene glycol. The method had only been previously
successful in treating PCB contaminated soil -- not
dioxin. The idea to use the technique in Missouri had
been suggested to Danforth by Rita Lavelle, the
controversial EPA assistant administrator. 
     Prior to her dismissal, Lavelle allegedly used the
billion-dollar Superfund program for political ends. In
addition, congressional investigations in 1982 and 1983
revealed Lavelle had private discussions with officials
at Monsanto and other corporations concerning regulatory
matters. When Congress subpoenaed documents -- including
those related to Times Beach  -- the EPA initially
withheld the information on the advice of the White
House and  Department of Justice. The level of
stonewalling reached a crescendo when Congress
discovered EPA officials had ordered the wholesale
shredding of sensitive files. 
      The showdown with Congress ultimately forced
Reagan to replace EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch with
William D. Ruckelshaus, who had headed the agency at its
inception.  
     Ruckelshaus' resume, however, contains more than
one entry to that has received criticism.
Environmentalists point out that during his career,
Ruckelshaus has had many close ties to polluting
industries -- including a directorship at Monsanto.