times beach action group

LETTER TO THE LAW

Rep. Jim Talent asks the Justice Department to come clean on its investigation of the EPA’s Times Beach cleanup

BY C.D. STELZER

first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Oct. 29, 1997

The U.S. Justice Department has quietly initiated a criminal inquiry into the controversial 1995 stack emissions test of the Times Beach dioxin incinerator, The Riverfront Times has learned. In a letter dated Sept. 22, 1997, U.S. Rep. Jim Talent (R-2nd Dist.) asked U.S. attorney Edward Dowd about the status of the federal investigation.

An anonymous source provided a copy of the letter to the RFT last week. Spokespersons for the congressman and the U.S. Justice Department in St. Louis declined to comment on the matter. A representative at the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Kansas City said the agency was unaware of any probe. Talent represents the congressional district in west St. Louis County, which includes the site of the now-completed EPA Superfund project.

His written request to Dowd reads in part: “The purpose of this letter is to inquire about the status of the Justice Department investigation regarding the possibility of criminal behavior surrounding the dioxin stack test for the permitting of the Times Beach incinerator. I would like to confirm if the investigation started by your office is still underway or if it has concluded.”

Last year, the RFT reported that separate Missouri Department of Natural Resources and EPA reviews of stack test data had discovered serious lapses in scientific protocol — lapses that cast doubt on whether the incinerator could have been legally considered protective of human health (Why the Times Beach Incinerator Should be Shut Down, Nov. 20, 1996). Talent asked the EPA last October to shut down the incinerator pending a re-test. His request followed another RFT story that revealed International Technologies (IT), the incinerator operator, partially owned Quanterra Environmental Services, the laboratory that handled the stack test emissions samples (Twice Burned, RFT, Aug 28, 1996).

The close relationship between IT and Quanterra presented the obvious appearance of a conflict of interest. Moreover, documents obtained by the RFT showed numerous errors and omissions in the stack test data. In one instance, it took seven to eight days for test samples to reach Triangle Laboratories in North Carolina, according to the EPA. In another unexplained anomaly, five test sample containers disappeared. Members of the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG), an organization that opposed the incinerator, sifted through mounds of technical data to uncover the inconsistencies in the stack emissions test.

When contacted last week, Steve Taylor, a TBAG organizer, was hesitant to talk about Talent’s letter to Dowd. Asked whether he was the source who leaked the letter to the RFT, Taylor says: I’ve been instructed not to comment about any FBI or Justice Department investigation. So I can neither confirm nor deny. … I have been told that if the media got hold of it, the investigation would end. I know that an investigation has been going on since January.”

Given the EPA’s questionable past practices, Taylor is disturbed that the agency is being allowed to proceed with the clean up of another recently discovered dioxin site on Lemar Drive in Ellisville with no public input into the process. The announcement of the toxic discovery in St. Louis County came shortly after the Times Beach project had been completed.

“The people on Lemar are getting pushed around,” says Taylor. “It’s just amazing that the EPA is allowed to move soil with all the inconsistencies and deceptions with the incineration.”

WASTED IN WEST COUNTY

As a prelude to snuffing the flames at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator, the EPA moved more than 4,000 tons of “special” waste from the clean-up site to a controversial landfill in St. Louis County

published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis) July 9, 1997

BY C.D. STELZER

In late May, when the dump trucks began rumbling down Vance and Sulphur Springs Roads in southwest St. Louis County, residents along the route had no way of knowing that the vehicles were hauling chemically- contaminated soil from Times Beach. That’s because no one from the federal, state or local government bothered to tell them.

Ultimately, over a two-week period, a total of 4,466 tons of non- dioxin-contaminated waste, which had been excavated from the site of the former Times Beach city park, wound up at the nearby Superior Oak Ridge Landfill. The soils contained dangerous volatile organic chemicals, including ethylbenzine, toluene, xylene, tetrocholorethylene and trichloroethylene.

No less than three sources reached for this story refused to comment on the transfer of the waste, citing a confidentiality agreement with the EPA — an agreement the EPA doesn’t even acknowledge exists. An EPA attorney, who did go on the record, said she had no idea how much the city park clean up cost. A public affairs spokeswoman for the agency asked that all questions pertaining to landfill shipments be placed in writing. Although a Freedom of Information Act request was submitted, there have been no answers yet.

The stealthy manner in which the tainted dirt was relocated and the silence since then has led opponents of the Superfund cleanup to further criticize the project, which is now near completion. In advance of a media event to publicize the final snuffing of the flames at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator, the public affairs office at the site disconnected its phone. (park here)
Officials who have been contacted have attempted to diffuse the issue. The word from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the St. Louis County Health Department is that there is nothing to worry about because the soil that went to the landfill contains only low-levels of contamination. Indeed, they emphasize that the latest tests show negligible amounts of toxic chemicals at the city park site. By contrast, the EPA’s own 1986 draft feasibility study claimed that soil contamination at the park went20 feet deep and ground water was contaminated with 13 different chemicals.

In the latest tests, the EPA didn’t search for highly-toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) because none were recorded to have been found in tests conducted in 1991. But earlier tests conducted in 1982 showed PCBs present at the same location, according to sources close to the Times Beach clean up. This apparent discrepancy may be explained to a degree by the natural breakdown of the chemicals over time. Public confidence in the reliability of EPA data has also broken down over time, however, and PCBs are known to be persistent in the environment. Aside from not informing the public in a timely manner, the transfer of the waste to the landfill raises other concerns. The Riverfront Times has learned the following:

* The landfill that accepted the waste from the Times Beach city park has repeatedly been cited for operating violations by the DNR. Superior Services Inc. of Wisconsin, the new landfill owner, has yet to fully rectify the latest problem, according to the Missouri Attorney General’s office. Interestingly, Superior also controls a subsidiary specializing in hazardous waste cleanups. That company has done work for the EPA in the past.

* James B. Becker, who owned the landfill until last year, headed a consulting engineering firm that did survey work at the Times Beach clean up, according to the DNR. Records show his son is still the managing operator for the landfill. The elder Becker, a heavy campaign contributor to County Democrats, has been involved in past political controversies.
* The former mayor of Times Beach and a civil attorney with knowledge of the case both say the city park tested positive for highly- toxic PCBs in 1982. Sampling at that time also found other hazardous chemicals. Tests conducted nine years later, however, somehow failed to find any PCBs In May, the EPA chose not to sample again for the persistent chemical and claims to have found only insignificant levels of other contaminants.

* A driver for Russell Bliss, the waste hauler who sprayed Times Beach with dioxin-contaminated oil, admitted dumping liquid chemical waste at the same site (then called West County Landfill) in the early 1970s, according to copies of government documents obtained by the RFT.

“What’s really strange about this whole thing is they took Superfund money to take material they were afraid was going to leach into the ground water at Times Beach, and dumped it into a municipal waste landfill in West County that has been out of compliance for the lastdecade,” says Steve Taylor of the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG).

Taylor and other local environmental activists have long charged that incineration — the mandated method of disposing of dioxin- contaminated waste in Eastern Missouri — falls short of meeting the EPA’s own stringent emissions standards and thereby endangers human health and the environment. Evidence uncovered by TBAG late last year cast doubt on the reliability of a crucial 1995 stack emissions test, which was conducted to verify the operational safety of the incinerator.

Now that Syntex, the liable party in the dioxin clean up, has finished burning 265,000 tons of dioxin-contaminated soil (more than twice the amount originally estimated), TBAG is concerned about the remaining waste. This separate phase of the remediation has until now received little or no attention. Under the terms of the 1990 consent decree, non- dioxin contaminated materials could not be burned at the Times Beach incinerator. In some cases, barrels of hazardous waste have been shipped out of state for disposal. Soil deemed to contain only low levels of contamination, however, could be legally moved to an ordinary sanitary landfill for disposal.

In the case of the Times Beach city park, the EPA sought and received permits from both the state and county to haul “special waste” to the Superior Oak Ridge Landfill. To move the waste, the EPA circumvented its own strict regulations by deferring to more lenient guidelines imposed by the DNR, according to Martha Steincamp, an EPA attorney. Steincamp referred to the city park clean up as a “removal action not a remedial action.” She compared the landfill shipments to the disposal of other non-hazardous waste at the site such as flood debris and abandoned household goods. When asked why such seemingly benign materials needed to be disposed of at all, Steincamp replied: “Because Times Beach is going to be a park and we want to clean it all up.”
Unlike the high-profile incineration project, shipments of the contaminants to the landfill went virtually unnoticed. The press release relating to the project failed to mention the destination of the waste other than to say, “the contaminated soil will be transported off-site to a licensed disposal facility.”

A spokeswoman for the St. Louis County Health Department doesn’t see why local government should have been any more vigilant in alerting citizens than the EPA has been. “If we put out a news release every time somebody shipped properly handled waste, that’s not news, says Ellen Waters. “What benefit would it be to the citizens to know the waste is being properly handled? It’s good to know, but it almost goes withoutsaying. The assumption is always there — that’s what we do day in and day out.”

If the current name of the landfill — Superior Oak Ridge — seems unfamiliar that’s because up until September of last year the facility was formally known as West County Disposal Ltd. Among area residents it is still simply referred to as West County Landfill. Superior Services Inc., the new owner, is a Wisconsin-based solid waste management firm.
The current violation at the landfill dates back to November 1991, when the Missouri Attorney General’s office filed suit on behalf of the DNR. The DNR had cited the landfill for exceeding its vertical limits because trash had piled up 680 feet high, 40 feet over the limit. Last year, a $30,000 fine was imposed on the prior landfill operator. Since acquiring the landfill in September, Superior Services has not brought the facility into compliance with state requirements, according to Joseph P. Bindbeutel, chief counsel of the environmental division of the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

“From our standpoint as enforcers, … they bought a pig in a poke,” say Bindbeutel. “And they are continuing to sort of pay the dues of operational confusion out at that landfill. There are so many plans, and so many intentions, and so many maps, and so many management techniques out there nobody knew how they were going to operate. … Becker (the prior owner) actually committed the violation,” says Bindbeutel. “But we will be demanding remediation and penalties from the new operator. They bought the overfill. They’re responsible for it.”

Despite the tough talk, Bindbeutel indicates the state appreciates what Superior has contributed — namely a $4 million assurance bond to cover any emergencies or future closure. Bindbuetel also credits Superior for actively seeking to make improvements at the site. “They redesigned the active part of the landfill completely, including a methane recovery system that will very much benefit the environment.”

Peter J. Ruud, vice president and chief counsel for Superior, refused to discuss the sale terms, and cited a confidentiality agreement with the EPA concerning the contaminated waste from Times Beach. But it’s no secret the company has expanded lately through a series of acquisitions in the Midwest. The solid waste management firm also owns a subsidiary, Superior Specialty Services that handles hazardous waste cleanups, including contracts with the EPA

In essence, Superior bought the former West County Disposal Ltd., changed it name and acquired the same operating permit held by the previous owner. The Wisconsin company acquired all potential liability associated with the landfill, too. Mitch Stepro, the special waste coordinator for the landfill, also refused to discuss the Times Beach waste, citing a confidentiality agreement with the EPA. Because both sides are remaining mum, it is unclear why the out-of-state company would buy into a landfill that faces possible further sanctions by the state.

Becker, the former landfill owner, referred all questions to his attorney, Brian McGovern, who accused the DNR of dragging its bureaucratic feet. “There was an exceedence of the vertical elevations, but they’re was also a counter claim alleged,” says McGovern. “Plans had been submitted at the landfill that would have allowed access to additional areas.” But the DNR put off looking at the landfill’s expansion plans for four years, according to McGovern, thus stymieing the operator’s ability to contain the waste in a more appropriate manner.
Problems at the landfill go back more than four years, however.

West County Landfill acquired its first operating permit in December 1972, and public protests started immediately. One early critic, geologist Charles Felt of St. Louis University, told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat : “My research indicates that the area is not suitable for a landfill. In the first place, rocks underneath the area would allow water to pass through.” In 1973, Martin D. Baron of the Coalition for the Environment voiced more opposition, telling the County Council the water quality of the nearby Meramec River needed to be protected.

The pleas fell on deaf ears. The County approved the license for the 129-acre landfill and problems at the site began to mount. In 1983, the state ordered the landfill closed, alleging Becker had failed to take adequate steps to protect ground and surface water from pollution. But West County continued to operate while it appealed the case. Two years later, DNR finally reached a settlement agreement that imposed strict guidelines on the landfill. A DNR official then said the stiff requirements had been imposed because soil conditions at the facility allowed waste to seep into the ground.

In recent years, neighbors of the landfill complained to the St. Louis County Council about odors. Other residents notified authorities of dumping late a night. But the County did little. Perhaps the most telling evidence of official disdain for citizens’ concerns is found in complaint log #8071 on file at the St. Louis County Health Department. In a letterdated May 11, 1996, residents of Greenfield Crossing Court asked for help to stem “the pollution, strong unpleasant odors, noise and traffic caused by the operators of the landfill.” In response, an unknown official jotted in the margin, “What pollution? (These are) all conditions associated with normal landfill operations. Why did they buy property next to a landfill, if they did not like these conditions?”

In 1991, when West County community activist Angela Dillmon started checking out local candidates, she found Becker had contributed heavily to Democrats on the County Council, particularly, the campaign of County Executive Buzz Westfall. By Dillmon’s tally, Becker and individuals and companies connected to him gave Westfall tens of thousands of dollars. “It was serious money,” says Dillmon.

It wasn’t the first time Becker had become involved in local politics. In 1974, he pled the Fifth Amendment 58 times in the perjury trial of then-St. Louis Building Commissioner Kenneth O. Brown. Brown was charged with lying to a grand jury about a $1,500 check he had received from Becker. The prosecution alleged the money was paid to Brown for steering work to Becker’s consulting engineering firm.

Later, from 1984 to 1987, the late St. Louis County highway director Richard F. Daykin got the County Council to give more than $800,000 in no- bid contracts to James B. Becker Consulting Engineers, according to press accounts. At that time, Daykin’s son, Richard J. Daykin, worked for Becker’s engineering firm. While employed by Becker, the younger Daykin helped survey the Times Beach site.

After his father’s death, Daykin befriended Taylor, the TBAG activist. He then told Taylor of irregularities in soil sampling he had observed at Times Beach. He also mentioned safety violations at the site. Daykin repeated his allegations in an interview with an environmental attorney who was preparing a federal suit to try and halt incinerator operations.

But Daykin never got a chance to go on the record. In August 1995, Federal Judge John F. Nangle reaffirmed Superfund clean ups can’t be sued until after they are completed. That judicial ruling is not what permanently silenced Daykin, however. He died of injuries received in a one-car accident early last year.

Taylor is hesitant to broach the subject of his friend’s death. “There was no indications of foul play,” he says. “It is presumed by friends and family to have been an accident. We don’t really know because there weren’t many questions asked. Rich was always hesitant about bringing up things,” says Taylor. “But he came to his own realization things weren’ton the up and up at Times Beach. He thought a lot of things that happened down there were suspicious.”

For its part, the EPA claims ignorance of all these details. “I don’t keep up on St. Louis politics that much,” says Martha Steincamp, the regional counsel for the EPA. “The most important thing to us, of course, is that we are selecting a location that is properly licensed and approved by whomever the licensing authorities are to receive this waste. In this case, there were discussions with the county officials and it was a properly licensed landfill to receive special waste and they did have the conditional use permit.”

In 1995, Marilyn Leisner, the former mayor of Times Beach, told the RFT the city park site contained PCBs, albeit low levels. Her recollection is based on private testing done in 1982 prior to the evacuation of the dioxin-contaminated town. “When the testing was completed, it was determined the PCBs were only at the city park,” said Leisner. “In the cleanup at Times Beach, Syntex is not responsible for the PCBs. So the park cleanup is not being done by Syntex; it is being done separately by the EPA.”

As Leisner and Steincamp both explain it, dioxin at Times Beach fell under Superfund regulation, which made Syntex, the liable party, responsible for its clean up. But the PCB contamination at the city park came under the auspices of another federal law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA regulations allow the states to set the contamination guidelines.

Gerson Smoger, an attorney who represented former Times Beach residents, couldn’t corroborate Leisner’s recollection exactly, but he did remember the presence of PCBs at the city park, as well as, elsewhere in Times Beach. “When they were doing the testing, the assumption made in the early 1980s was that dioxin was of such extreme harm that anything else was irrelevant.” Nevertheless, according to Smoger, the concentrations of PCBs alone were high enough to declare Times Beach a hazardous waste site. “One would assume there would still be PCBs there, ” says Smoger. But, according to sampling conducted in 1991, the PCBs — a persistent environmental pollutant — had somehow vanished.

PCBs or no PCBs, significant levels of volatile organic chemicals were indisputably detected at the city park as early as 1982. Private tests conducted at that time for the city of Times Beach showed thepresence of toluene at 120,000 part per billion (ppb), ethyl benzene at 170,000 ppb, acetone at 82,000 ppb and xylenes at up to 510,000 ppb. A Centers for Disease Control spokesman commented then that the contaminants were “of concern, ” but pronounced there was no emergency response necessary. As a result, the chemicals continued to leach into the ground water for another 15 years before they were transported to the Superior Oak Ridge Landfill in late May and early June. Although the landfill now uses pumps and liners to prevent seepage, there is still a chance some of the remaining contaminants could potentially pollute water entering the Meramec River.

Of course, if the waste isn’t hazardous, as the EPA contends, there would be no reasonable cause to move it in the first place. On the other hand, if it does warrant disposal, there seems little logic in shipping it to a landfill in the same ecologically sensitive watershed.
Anne McCauley, the EPA on-site coordinator for the city park clean up says several factors weighed into the decision to send the waste to Superior Oak Ridge. “One was the location relative to the site we were cleaning up,” says McCauley. “It was very close to the city park site. The transportation route was very short in addition to the fact that the facility is permitted to accept this kind of waste.”

Not surprisingly Taylor of TBAG has a diametrically opposed view. “We believe this is more of a toxic-waste shell game than a clean up,” he says. “We feel there’s a lot of secrets. That this whole incineration project was about preserving secrets and protecting commercial interests more than protecting public health.”

One well-kept secret is contained in the files of the Collinsville office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). In late 1982, after the extent of Bliss’s toxic spraying binge became known, the IEPA asked its federal counterpart for information on sites in Illinois that Bliss may have contaminated a decade earlier.

In one document handed over by the EPA, there is a reference to the West County Landfill. At the time, there seemed to be some confusion by state officials as to whether the landfill was in Missouri or Illinois. The IEPA summary lists the source of the information as Stephen P. Krchma of the Missouri Attorney General’s office. Krchma had in turn based his report on an interview with David Covert, one of Bliss’s drivers. The summary citation reads:

Wastes were also reported by Covert to be hauled to the West County landfill in Sulphur Springs (IL or MO?) where the operators were paid off to accept the wastes.”
The reference to Sulphur Springs most likely denotes the St. Louis County road on which West County Landfill (now Superior Oak Ridge Landfill) is located.

On December 23, 1982, IEPA officials interviewed Covert themselves. During the interview, Covert talked about picking up ink from a company in St. Louis County. “It smells terrible and I don’t think it burns,” said Covert. “You just haul that stuff into the west county landfill and open the valve and let it run out.” Before they were banned, PCBs were used in the manufacture of ink.
The reason the EPA and DNR passed over the West County Landfill in their own search appear to be twofold. For one, another Bliss driver changed his story. According to the EPA’s dioxin site tracking list, Gary Lambarth “indicated he had oiled the road in the landfill around 1972.”

Lambarth made that statement in the spring of 1983. By fall, however, he reversed himself, claiming he had confused West County with another landfill. In addition, the EPA dioxin tracking list states that DNR was “deferring action until (the) relationship with ongoing litigation is determined.” As already mentioned, the state agency had attempted to close the landfill in 1983 because Becker had failed to adequately protect ground and surface water from pollution.
In a sense, the waste from the city park completes the contamination circle. Two Bliss drivers initially confessed to dumping waste at West County Landfill in the early 1970s. Only one is known to have retracted the admission. The state cited the landfill for water pollution violations in 1983, but has continued to allow the landfill to operate. Complaints by citizens have been dismissed by the County. Meanwhile, those involved in accepting contaminated waste from Times Beach refuse to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement with the EPA. The silence extends to the U.S. attorney’s office in St. Louis. “We don’t confirm or deny the possible existence of an investigation,” says Jan Diltz, a local Department of Justice (DOJ) spokeswoman. She declined to comment further on whether there is a current federal inquiry into activities at Time Beach.

In 1982, the DOJ — acting on behalf of the EPA and the White House — withheld documents from a congressional investigation, citing executive privilege. Among the documents the DOJ refused to hand over were handwritten notes of EPA attorney James Kohanek, pertaining toproposed activity on Missouri dioxin sites. In a published account, then- U.S. Rep. Elliott Levitas, D-Ga., who sat on House Public Works Committee, remembered exactly when the stonewalling began. “As far as I was concerned, it was just a routine exercise in oversight,” said Levitas of the congressional inquiry. “Right in the middle of it there was a decision made by the EPA … permitting sanitary landfills to be used to receive liquid waste. … Then boom — the door got shut.”

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

The EPA belatedly calls for a retest of stack emissions at the Times Beach incinerator

BY C.D. STELZER

first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Jan. 1, 1997

On Christmas Eve, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assistant administrator Elliott P. Laws ordered a retest of stack emissions at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator to determine whether the facility is operating safely. The test results are due by the end of January, according to an internal EPA memorandum released by the agency.

Robert Martin, the EPA national ombudsman, recommended the new test based on irrefutable documentary evidence showing samples from the original 1995 stack test were mishandled. The ombudsman — who represents citizens’ interests — began investigating the Superfund project last spring, after local residents complained of unsafe conditions at the cleanup near Eureka.

The Times Beach Action Group (TBAG) and other incinerator opponents later charged that a conflict of interest existed at the time of the original stack test because International Technology Inc. (IT), the incinerator operator, then owned half of Quanterra Environmental Services, the laboratory that mishandled the test samples.

In his final report on Dec. 21, Martin stated a new stack test and corresponding analysis would take under two week to complete. No shut down of the facility is anticipated, according to the report. The ombudsman estimated the test would cost approximately $100,000. The report recommends that the federal agency’s Environmental Response Team along with EPA Region VII, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) oversee the new test. The report further recommends that the St. Louis County Dioxin Monitoring Committee, a citizens watchdog group, select a technical advisor to independently access the new test. Last Friday, an EPA spokeswoman in Washington, D.C. said the agency was unprepared to release the names of possible laboratories that may analyze the new test samples.
Martin’s final report roundly criticized a separate DNR inquiry, which had concluded earlier this year that problems with the original test were insignificant.”The findings of the DNR investigation are troubling,” Martin wrote. “The explanations offered by ATI (Agribusiness Technologies Inc., the company responsible for the clean up) and thus far readily accepted by DNR and EPA are grossly inadequate. Clearly, there are significant problems with the original test.”

The ombudsman’s report repeatedly relies on the opinion of Michael Bollinger, who is cited as an expert in environmental chemistry and public health. Bollinger is quoted as saying that inconsistencies in the original test “indicate either incompetence, blatant carelessness, or potentially criminal deception on behalf of the sampling and analytical contractors.” The Martin report goes on to list a litany of snafus during the original stack test, including: “modified quality assurance records, missing time periods, unaccounted for sample traps, and a lack of documentation on possession and transfer of samples.”

None of the state or federal officials responsible for overseeing the Times Beach clean up were available for comment last week. But spokeswomen for the EPA and DNR vowed that both agencies would cooperate fully in carrying out whatever measures necessary to assure future protection of public health and the environment.

Those promises may be a little too late, however.

More than 177,480 tons of dioxin-contaminated waste have already been burned at the incinerator, according to the latest estimates by the DNR. Moreover, despite the order for a retest, plumes of smoke continue to roil from the incinerator stacks. During the week preceding the issuance of the ombudsman’s final report, the incinerator burned 6,351 tons of toxic materials. At this late stage, only five of the 27 Eastern Missouri dioxin sites remain to be cleaned up, and the EPA has projected the burn itself could be completed as soon as March.

Although the federal regulatory agency is ostensibly accepting the ombudsman’s recommendation for a retest, the rush to burn the remaining dioxin-tainted soil is obvious. As a result, two traffic accidents have occurred in the past month. In the first case, a truck hauling dioxin contaminated waste from Timberline Stable overturned on Highway J in Callaway County. On Dec. 21, another dump truck crashed on Rock Creek Road near Highway 21 in Jefferson County.

In his Christmas Eve edict, Laws, the assistant EPA administrator, recommended the new stack test be conducted in a manner that creates only “minimal interference with ongoing incinerator operations.” In addition, the EPA official stated the agency has “an obligation to ensure that a protective cleanup is conducted in an efficient and expeditious manner.” The assistant administrator defends this hellbent policy by citing available air monitoring data, which he claims proves the incinerator is operating safely.

Bill Elmore, a member of the St. Louis County Dioxin Monitoring Committee, isn’t buying the agency’s latest line. “What they’ve done is shift the burden of proof to residents,” says Elmore. “They should have to prove to us that this is not harmful — and they cannot do that. In fact, every time you take a close look at the data you find even more reason to not believe what they say.”

Although the EPA now claims there has been a 1.1 percent average decrease in airborne dioxin levels in the vicinity of the incinerator from March through November, the data actually show significant increases at three of seven air-monitoring sites. Elmore attributes the increases — including a whopping 22.5 percent jump at one location — to prevailing seasonal wind patterns. The EPA “should cross reference the direction of the wind where these increases in average airborne dioxin concentrations occurred,” asserts Elmore.

Laws doesn’t appear to have the time to authorize such prudent calculations. Instead, the assistant administrator busied himself last week accusing incinerator opponents of promulgating “irresponsible allegations of conspiracy and criminal activity.” Laws’ shrill denunciations of EPA critics were laid out in his Dec. 24 memo, which almost as an aside called for the retest of stack emissions. The three page screed also attacks ombudsman Martin for implying criminal misconduct may have occurred in relation to the Times Beach cleanup.

Steve Taylor of TBAG finds the official protestations mildly ironic, but he is more concerned about the possibility of history repeating itself. “For the EPA and the DNR to handle a retest without an investigation into those who allowed contractor (wrongdoing) to occur in the first place is like allowing a convicted child molester to do community service in a daycare center,” says Taylor. “It is irresponsible of Elliott Laws to refer to our allegations of wrongdoing as unfounded. There is no validity to the stack test. The incinerator should be immediately shut down given the fact there is no evidence that it is operating appropriately. They (the EPA and DNR) have violated the law. They have permitted an incinerator (to operate) with no evidence of it meeting its permit requirements. We will not be satisfied with a new stack test until the DNR and EPA are investigated by an independent arm of the government, possibly the Department of Justice or the FBI or a congressional subcommittee to determine why contract (improprieties) are being embraced by these agencies.”

EXECUTIVE INACTION

St. Louis County’s top elected official, Buzz Westfall, refuses to heed the advise of his own citizens watchdog group , which now recommends a new stack emissions test is needed at the Times Beach incinerator

BY C.D. STELZER

first published in the Riverfront Times, (St. Louis) Dec. 18, 1996

Despite mounting evidence of wrongdoing, St. Louis County Executive Buzz Westfall refused last week to call for a retest of stack emissions at the controversial Times Beach dioxin incinerator near Eureka. The St. Louis County Dioxin Monitoring Committee voted unanimously in favor of such a measure on Dec. 10.

Committee members — who are all Westfall appointees — recommended the county executive ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to shut down the incinerator until new test results confirm whether the project is safe. The committee’s recommendation follows the release of an EPA ombudsman’s report last month calling for a similar course of action (“Taking a New Stack,” RFT, Nov. 27). Questions regarding the November 1995 stack emissions test surfaced earlier this year, after opponents of the incinerator discovered numerous violations of scientific protocol, including the alteration documents and the unexplained disappearance of sample tubes.

“As of yet, he is not sending a letter to the EPA to shut the thing down,” says Max Scott, a spokesman for Westfall. “I mean it would be a public relations move anyway. The county executive has no power to shut this thing down.”

Scott, however, is exaggerating Westfall’s impotence. The EPA ombudsman has called for public comments on this matter, and a locally elected official’s opinion would certainly be handled with deference. Westfall’s reticence also contradicts his own past position on the incinerator. During his 1990 campaign, he repeatedly attacked his opponent, incumbent H.C. Milford, for not taking a stronger stand on the issue. At that time Westfall wooed Eureka-area voters by telling them: ”The federal government is doing something bad to St. Louis County, and H. Milford is sitting silently by.”

Westfall  and his minions now routinely condemn critics of the incinerator as conspiracy theorists. In a telephone interview last Friday, for example, Scott repeatedly referred to Republican Councilman Greg Quinn as a conspiracy theorist for suggesting anything might have gone awry with the Times Beach project. Quinn represents the district in West St. Louis County where the incinerator is located.

Another Westfall partisan, county counselor John Ross, used the conspiracy theory stigma to discredit a resolution offered by Quinn at the County Council meeting last Thursday. The Democratic majority on the council subsequently defeated the measure 4-2.

Quinn had proposed the council urge the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to order a shut down of the incinerator until the state health department released data on a blood study of residents who live near the facility. Instead, the council passed a measure asking for the data, but not demanding a shut down or retest. The health department has claimed average dioxin levels have decreased among Eureka-area residents, but refuses to turn over the raw data so it can be independently analyzed (“Blood Feud,” RFT, Nov. 13).

After the adoption of the watered-down resolution, Quinn told the council: “What you’re seeing here in this resolution is a misguided effort by the majority party to support the county executive who wants incineration to continue at Times Beach in spite of the fact that we’ve had a unanimous recommendation from his own Dioxin Monitoring Committee. He’s willing to disregard that.”

Westfall was absent from the proceedings, as is often the case when Times Beach is on the agenda. If he had been there, the county executive may have been heartened by the testimony of EPA project manager Bob Feild, who defended the safety of the incinerator based on air monitoring data.

After the meeting, Feild and EPA lawyer Martha Steincamp deflected questions by saying, “We have to catch a plane.” Gary Pendergrass of Agribusiness Technologies Inc., the company liable for the clean up, had even less to say. When asked about his knowledge of a possible cover up of misdeeds during the stack test, Pendergrass stared vacuously at the RFT reporter and remained mute (“Why the Times Beach Incinerator Should be Shut Down,” RFT, Nov. 20).

Members of the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG) have charged that a conflict of interest exists because International Technology Inc. (IT), the incinerator operator, owned half of Quanterra Environmental Services when the stack test was conducted. Quanterra is known to have mishandled sample tubes following that test (“Twice Burned,” RFT, Aug. 28).

The irregularities at Times Beach now raise larger questions. Two thirds of IT’s contracts are with the federal government, including the Departments of Defense and Energy. Revenues from this work in fiscal 1996 are estimated at more $250 million. In the past, Quanterra’s William C. Anderson, the quality assurance officer at Times Beach, has also been involved in a trial burn at the U.S. Army chemical weapons incinerator in Utah. The Army is now investigating the safety of that incinerator, after whistleblowers there have repeatedly alleged that the incinerator isn’t operating properly. In 1993, IT’s St. Louis lab also did sampling for a radioactive waste clean up in Alaska, The Riverfront Times has learned.

Closer to home, incinerator critic Fred Striley — who is a member of the monitoring committee — isn’t satisfied in regard to the accuracy of the air monitoring at Times Beach. “Citizens groups have pointed out over the last couple of years numerous problems with the risk assessment that was prepared for the Times Beach site by CH2M Hill at EPA Region VII’s direction — problems like failing to account for fugitive emissions,” say Striley. Last week, the EPA notified the monitoring committee that its request for an air monitor at the incinerator site itself had been denied, according to Striley.

In 1992, CH2M Hill, one of the EPA’s most frequently relied on contractors, fell under the scrutiny of the White House Office of Management and Budget, the congressional General Accounting Office and the EPA itself. Investigators found the Corvallis, Ore.-based engineering firm had overcharged the government by $5 million for parties, baseball tickets, liquor and country club fees among other things. In addition, more than 95 percent of CH2M Hill’s time sheets were altered. Nonetheless, EPA Region VII choice CH2M Hill to do the Times Beach risk assessment completed in 1994.

Last Tuesday, one TBAG member was arrested at the monitoring committee meeting, which was held at the clean up site offices. Another TBAG protester locked her neck to the entrance gate with a kryptonite bicycle lock.

None of thedemonstrators swayed Retired Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Lewi’s opinion, however. At 66 years of age, the former officer is arguably the most conservative member of the monitoring committee, and he expresses confidence in the safety of the incinerator. Nevertheless, Lewi sided with the other committee members in asking for a shut down and retest.

“The committee has a responsibility to tell Mr. Westfall what we think based on the information we have,” says Lewi. “The reason I voted that way was to remove doubt from the public as to whether or not the (original ) test was valid.”

It remains to be seen whether the Westfall administration will label the general a conspiracy theorist, too.

TAKING A NEW STACK

An interim EPA report recommends a new stack-emissions test at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator but mutes its call for a shutdown

BY C.D. STELZER

first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Nov. 27, 1996

On Nov. 20, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) interim report recommended that a stack-emissions test at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator may need to be redone to restore public confidence in the project. Such a retest would require snuffing the flames at the incinerator at least temporarily (“Why the Times Beach Incinerator Should be Shut Down, RFT, Nov. 20).

Despite the recommendation, the EPA had by late last Friday taken no action to address the potential public health hazard posed by the incinerator emissions.

“I have absolutely no idea what is going to take place. We have not met on this subject. I am not in any position to comment in any way,” says Rowena Michaels, a spokeswoman for EPA Region VII in Kansas City. Region VII and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are responsible for overseeing the dioxin cleanup in Eastern Missouri, including Times Beach. The results from last year’s flawed test were used as a basis for the DNR to grant a permit for the incinerator to operate.

EPA national ombudsman Robert J. Martin submitted the interim report to Elliott P. Laws, assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) in Washington, D.C. As ombudsman, Martin was assigned in May to represent the interests of citizens opposed to the Times Beach incinerator. His final report on the subject is now tentatively scheduled for completion by Dec. 9.

As it stands, Martin’s interim report recommends “establishing a panel of technical and legal experts to consult with the national ombudsman on how to address the issues raised in this case in a final report.” But no such panel has been formed as of yet by the EPA. Moreover, Martin, now speculates that the panel won’t be formed before he completes his findings next month.

“I don’t have the ability to convene the panel,” Martin told The Riverfront Times in a phone interview last Friday. “I have no decision making power. I only have the power to recommend. So whether this panel happens is up to the agency. The agency hasn’t said whether they’ll do it or not.”

Martin’s interim report to Laws concludes that “another dioxin stack test may be essential to restore public confidence in the project.” The report supports that position by citing gross errors in last year’s stack test. “There are salient inconsistencies in the chain-of-custody (of test samples) along with multiple alterations in the supporting documents,” according the EPA interim report. Assistant administrator Laws has not responded to repeated requests by the RFT for an interview.

Martin told the RFT that he is concerned about his inability to put his hands on a copy of the project’s work plans, which lay out the protocols supposedly used during the now unreliable stack test. I have not seen the plans. Apparently, a lot of people have not,” says Martin. “The real question (then) becomes what in fact did they use for a chain-of custody-procedure. We don’t know the answer to that question until we get the work plans. To date, I’ve seen abstracts from the documents, but not the documents in their entirety.

However, the integrity of the interim report itself is now being questioned. Environmental opponents of the incinerator had anticipated that Martin’s review would more strongly advocate a shut down pending a retest.

“It is obvious that the ombudsman lost the courage of his convictions sometime after submitting his report to Elliott Laws for review,” says Steve Taylor of the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG). “We believe that the recommendations in his report were softened. The release of this report is completely inconsistent with the guidance given to us by the national ombudsman.”

As recently as the first week of November, Taylor says Martin told him that the long-awaited interim report would call for a direct and unqualified shut down of the incinerator, pending a retest. Taylor has provided the RFT with taped-recorded telephone conversations to back up his claims. In one conversation, a voice that sounds like Martin’s can be heard saying: “Whatever they need to do to do in the way of a shut down to accommodate a retest is what they should do.”

When confronted with Taylor’s allegations, Martin responded indirectly by saying that his call for a shut down and retest must now be predicated on a loss of “public confidence and not one of legal impropriety.” Taylor contends Martin has waffled on this point, too. In another tape-recorded telephone conversation, a voice presumed to be Martin’s says: “I got to tell you that it wasn’t until this week, going through these documents and then having these discussions with you that I’ve moved from `we have problems’ to `we have potential criminal activities.'”

In the phone conversation, the presumed voice of the ombudsman ruminates over difficulties that his inquiry may soon encounter because of a parallel investigation by the DNR. “The state is likely going to weigh in and say, `no problem,” says the voice on the other end of the line. Then you get into double-jeopardy kinds of issues. I may talk to the FBI. …”

Last week, during his interview with the RFT, Martin denied knowledge of information contained in a key document that is allegedly already in his the possession, according to Taylor. The content of the document, of which Martin now says he is unaware, includes a “Chronology of Events” prepared by the incinerator operator. The chronology indicates that five sample tubes disappeared from the site shortly after the stack test was completed last year. Martin also denied knowledge of a custody sheet from an analytical laboratory showing that sample seals were absent upon arrival. Taylor alleges that he had discussed that issue with the ombudsman as well.

With the release of the watered-down interim report, Taylor has become even more distrustful of the EPA. “It is shocking that the ombudsman had asked the TBAG to sit on information of potential criminal activity pending the release of his interim report,” says Taylor. “In our conversations, Bob Martin gave specific guidance to me to withhold evidence of possible fraud to better facilitate future criminal investigations.”

 

WHY THE TIMES BEACH INCINERATOR SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN

BY C.D. STELZER

First published by the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Nov. 20,1996

Some of the toxic shipments hail from the hinterlands, forgotten places in rural Missouri with strange names like Bull Moose Tube, Moscow Mills and Piazza Road. But the bulk of the dioxin-contaminated soils now being hauled to the Times Beach dioxin incinerator near Eureka comes from nearby sites in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis. It is a mammoth Superfund project being conducted with little fanfare, and it would now seem little regulatory oversight.

Federal and state regulators have went to great lengths to assure the public that the incinerator is operating safely; that igniting an estimated 228,000 tons of hazardous waste is not a risk to human health or the environment. Since deciding to burn the waste, the government agencies responsible for the project have encountered the resistance of citizens and locally elected officials. Public concerns, which were dismissed as unwarranted, have since been borne out. Accidents have occurred. Lies have been told. Nevertheless, those in control remain unrepentant and the project has proceeded under the arbitrary terms of the 1990 federally-court-ordered consent decree.

For now, the 80,000-pound dump trucks laden with dioxin-tainted dirt continue to trundle down city streets, county roads and Interstate highways, as they have for the past year. Sometime in 1997, the last shovelful of poisoned earth is expected to be burned. The incinerator is then scheduled for disassembly. After the project is completed, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has promised to transform the location of the former town of Times Beach into a park. It would seem a noble end for an ignoble legacy wrought more than a quarter-of-a-century ago by the misdeeds of Russell Bliss, the waste oil hauler responsible for dispersing dioxin across the region.

Unfortunately, serious questions about the safety of the dioxin incinerator still remain unanswered. Internal corporate memos from the incinerator operator and scientific data obtained by the Riverfront Times show numerous omissions and inconsistencies in documenting the handling of last year’s dioxin stack test samples. The laboratory analysis of those emissions samples prompted the state to issue the requisite permit for the incinerator to operate.

In recent weeks, separate DNR and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inquiries have also noted serious lapses in scientific protocol during the November 1995 dioxin stack test, lapses that cast doubt on whether the incinerator can be legally considered protective of human health. In this regard, the RFT has learned of a recommendation at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C to shutdown the incinerator pending a retest.

Much of the impetus for the reexaminations of the stack test can be traced back to environmental opponents of the project, who have doggedly sifted through mounds of technical data. Based on their research, they now allege that the original stack test results are fraudulent.

“Documents have been doctored,” says Steve Taylor an organizer for the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG). “Samples were mixed and matched to give optimal results. Massive inconsistencies exist between the log book … and the final report presented to the DNR and EPA.” Taylor’s latest charges are an extension of his previous objections to the relationship between International Technology Corp. (IT), the incinerator operator, and Quanterra Environmental Services, a partially-owned subsidiary that handled the samples (“Twice Burned,” RFT, Aug. 28).

Although all sides in the controversy now recognize that test documents are flawed, they disagree on the ramifications. In a report published earlier this month, the DNR, for example, declares that “chain of-custody documentation procedures were less than satisfactory.” The state agency, nevertheless, has expressed renewed public confidence in the analytical results of that same test.,

By releasing its vacillating findings in advance of an imminent EPA ruling on the same subject, the DNR has undercut the bargaining position of the EPA official who most favors shutting down the incinerator until the stack test can be redone. The call for a shutdown and retest has also been potentially muted by the well-timed release of a Missouri Department of Health (DOH) blood study that claims dioxin levels have actually fallen among residents who live near the incinerator. A chemist for the environmental group Greenpeace has disputed those findings (“Blood Feud,” RFT, Nov. 13). Last week, the St. Louis County Council asked that DOH for raw data pertaining to the blood study that has been withheld from the public. Meanwhile, the EPA recommendation for a shutdown is expected to be released in an interim report to EPA assistant administrator Elliot Laws this week, according to a source close to the investigation.

Whether the recommendation will be quashed or accepted is uncertain. One obstacle working against the approval of a retest is money. In an Oct. 16 letter, Syntex Agribusiness Technologies Inc. (ATI) — the company liable for the cleanup — threatened to pull out if there were costly delays due to retesting. The letter, from ATI project coordinator Gary Pendergrass, presented DNR and EPA officials with an ultimatum: ” … (W)e feel strongly that it would be imprudent to set a precedent of requiring additional testing based exclusively upon allegations that are without merit. Any interruptions will be costly to the project and to the community, and may jeopardize the continuing availability of all of the thermal treatment team.”

Less than a month after the Pendergrass letter arrived on his desk, DNR director David Shorr exonerated the incinerator operator of any wrongdoing.”There is no evidence of criminal misconduct,” said Shorr. “However, International Technology (IT) would have been better served by hiring a financially independent contractor, especially on a project this sensitive to the community.”

“The state and maybe the feds, too, are doing everything they can to keep this thing on track without admitting anything serious enough to cause a shutdown,” says R. Roger Pryor, exectutive director of the Coaliton for the Environment. “(But) if the EPA releases this recommendation, I don’t see how Shorr and DNR can pooh-pooh that. One of the guarantees that we were given since that day one was that if any irregularities showed up that were contrary to the original specifications they wouldn’t hesitate to shut the thing down to make sure corrections were made. Now it’s time for them to live up to their word.”

Despite its waffling, the DNR report does conclude that IT, the incinerator operator, and its partially-owned subsidiary, Quanterra Environmental Services, violated their own chain-of-custody requirements pertaining to test samples. In addition, IT’s lax documentation also skirted the state’s specified custodial procedures, according to the DNR report.

In the absence adequate chain-of-custody documents, DNR investigators scrambled to gather verbal accounts that allegedly confirmed the collection and transfer of the test samples from Times Beach to a North Carolina analytical laboratory.

With alibis in hand, The DNR then ruled out the possibility of any sample switching, because the lab involved in the test marked each tube with a distinctive resin that acts as a fingerprint. A chemist for the laboratory that analyzed the samples explains it this way: “Dioxins and furans are highly stable compounds and can only be removed from the resin by extraction. It would have been apparent by the appearance of the … resin if it had been extracted and placed back into the modules.”

“Any attempt to modify the dioxin samples would have disturbed the resins and invalidated the samples,” explains Shorr of the DNR. “The sample handling documentation employed by Quanterra was not the best, but it has not affected the validity of the dioxin stack test data.”

On the surface, the test was based on a fail-safe system then. However, the DNR report is itself fails to even mention certain key documents known to have been turned over to the state agency. “These documents show unaccounted resin (sample) tubes shipped in the middle of the night directly from Triangle (Laboratories) to Times Beach,” says Taylor. “There is compelling evidence that tubes and samples have been switched to falsify test results. “The withholding of these documents by David Shorr is an obstruction of justice and a coverup.”

Shorr responded to the charge by saying: “I did not do the investigation. But as far as I’m concerned our report was complete.” He says he provided the Pendergrass letter and all of its attachments to the appropriate quarters. “They were conveyed down to the portion of the agency that did the investigation. … As far as I’m concerned … it’s another piece of paper in the file. (TBAG) raised allegations that we felt merited our spending resources in order to do a thorough investigation. We did that investigation. We responded to each of the allegations, and found issues, certainly, of poor judgment. But there was nothing that we could find that represented an illegal act or an act that compromised the sample integrity.”

As the behind-the-scenes debate rages on, so too do the dioxin fueled fires at the incinerator; fires that continue to destroy public trust.

A litany of sources could not be reached for comment on this story. Their silence hints at what the paper trail has already confirmed. The narrative that follows chronicles the botched dioxin stack test of last year and the recent efforts to defend it. This explanation of events is based on copies of documents, scientific data and a voice mail message obtained by the RFT.

Just before noon on Aug. 29, Rob Kain of ATI made what sounded like an urgent call to William C. Anderson at Quanterra Environmental Services in Knoxville, Tenn. But Anderson, the quality assurance officer for the Times Beach project, never received the message. That’s because Kain confused a local telephone prefix with the Knoxville area code. Thinking he had reached Anderson’s voice mail, the ATI official left this stuttering message:

“This is a message for Billy Anderson. This is Rob Kain with ATI. Billy, we’re going to have a conference call at one o’clock, and Con Murphy (an IT employee) has-the-ah-has-the-ah-has a good part of the information on the questions that are going to be discussed. If you get this call before one o’clock, you’ll probably want to check with him. In particular we’re going to want to know more information on what happened exactly with the samples between Times Beach and Knoxville (Tenn.). It took two days for that to transport so the people want to know where they stopped overnight (and) any additional information we might have. So we’ll talk to you at one o’clock. Bye-bye.”

The telephone message shows that ATI, the company liable for the cleanup, and its subcontractors, IT and Quanterra, quickly moved to get their version of events straight one day after the publication of an RFT story that raised questions about the stack test. The message also makes clear that there was uncertainty among the participating parties as to the exact whereabouts of certain Quanterra employees during the transport of the test samples.

It eventually took a week for Quanterra to ship the test samples from Times Beach to Triangle Laboratories in North Carolina. According to a chronology of events prepared by ATI, two Quanterra employees departed from Times Beach with the samples on Tuesday morning November 21. They arrived in Knoxville late in the evening on the same day.

No chain-of-custody documents exist for this leg of the journey, or of the subsequent transfer of the samples in Tennessee. Once in Knoxville, the Quanterra employees are supposed to have turned over the samples to Anderson, who was in charge of quality assurance for the project. Instead of transporting the samples to Triangle Laboratories the next day, Anderson took them home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The samples stayed in his possession until Monday Nov. 27, when he finally signed them over to a Triangle Laboratories representative.

The seven day gap between completion of the test and the arrival of the test samples at the analytical laboratory is enough to give pause. But more snafus have now come to light.

The dioxin stack test purportedly consisted of three runs in which test samples were taken from each. But the project logbook shows a fourth run. Two pages dedicated to the fourth run have dates either missing or changed. A diagonal line runs across each of these pages with the words “not collected” written above it.

Although the testing reportedly ended on Nov. 20, test work appears to have extended beyond that deadline. An internal IT memorandum provided to the DNR and EPA shows that a second shipments of sample containers arrived at Times Beach on Nov 21 — the day after the documented completion of the test. The new batch of sample containers, referred to as XAD-2 resin traps or tubes, were ostensively requested on short notice in case a fourth run was needed. A custody sheet shows the sample containers being released by a Triangle Laboratory representative — but there is no signature showing who accepted the order.

However implausible a secret fourth run may seem, it is obvious that proper controls were not being used to assure the validity of the test findings. In short, quality assurance had run amok. The simple act of keeping track of laboratory materials became an impossible chore. According to the internal IT memo: “The 5 unused resin traps, which are not part of the stack samples and not stored in the stack sample cooler, are left at the site in the sample recovery trailer. The trailer is removed from the site approximately one week after the completion of the dioxin stack test.”

In other words, the incinerator operator is admitting that five sample containers mysteriously disappeared . And no one from IT or Quanterra signed for the last shipment of four.

None of this adds up, of course.

By its own account, IT used a total of nine sample containers during the course of the entire test. The incinerator operator had ten sample containers on hand to begin with — more than enough for the task. No indication is given in the test documents that any of the original containers were either lost or broken. There would then seem to be no need to use any of the late-arriving containers for a test that had already been completed. Nevertheless, samples D-1208 and D-1209, which are a part of the last batch, are listed as being used as “spiked resin blanks” for run #3 on Nov. 20. The IT chronology, however, shows D-1208 and D 1209 arriving on Nov. 21, after the test had been allegedly finished.

Another irregularity relates to sample D-1182. In Anderson’s final report, D-1182 is listed as being collected from run #2 on Nov. 20. But according to his request for analysis, D-1182 appears as part of run #1 on Nov. 19. In addition, the date on a D-1182 sample label is missing. This particular omission did not become apparent until last month, when Triangle Laboratories turned over a missing data page to IT. In an Oct. 3 letter to an IT official, a Triangle Laboratories vice-president wrote: “While doing our cross-reference check, we discovered that one page was inadvertently omitted from the data package.”

A missing page, a missing date, a missing signature. Most of all missing accountability. In his final report, Anderson states: “No significant problems were observed that would adversely affect the application of these analytical data as being completely indicative of the TTU (thermal treatment unit) dioxin emission performance.”

If this seems to be drifting into a tedious hair-splitting analysis, keep in mind that there are more inconsistencies in the stack test than can ever reasonably be expected to be explained in one newspaper story. Proponents of the incinerator, on the other hand, have been nothing short of verbose in their defense of the project. The ATI letter, for instance, measures 16-pages in length, minus sundry attachments. The DNR report, which for the most part absolves IT and Quanterra of wrongdoing, is 188 pages long.

“What’s significant about the state’s report is not what’s in it, but what’s not in it,” says Taylor. “Shorr is giving partial truth, and withholding information from the public in order to conclude that the samples are valid. The missing shipment of tubes is never mentioned nowhere other than in attachments to the letter sent to David Shorr by Gary Pendergrass,” says Taylor. “The presence of extra traps and resin completely invalidates the state’s conclusion that samples could not have been tampered with.”

Again, DNR director Shorr takes issue with Taylor’s assertion. “You’re working on the switcheroo theory. Well, the part that I would question in your theory is the fact that sample casings and the samples that were sealed were the ones that made it Research Triangle Park. Those were sealed in front of DNR inspectors. And that was included in the report.”

In contrast to Shorr’s reassurances, a document obtained by the RFT casts doubt on the integrity of the sealed sample. The page — from a Triangle Laboratories data report — clearly indicates sample seals absent on arrival at the lab. The carrier is listed as Bill Anderson. The inventory sheet is signed by Triangle sample custodian John Guenther. When state investigators recently questioned Guenther about the transfer of samples, however, he “recall(ed) that all samples were properly packagted and di not appear to be tampered with.”

It is difficult to conceive of the toxic-nature of one molecule of dioxin. Scientists still debate its dangers. But most, including those at the EPA, assume dioxin is a carcinogen and they are even more certain that it causes damage to the immune and reproductive system in humans. The sources of dioxin, although now on the decline, are. nevertheless, ubiquitous in the environment. It has long been established that Incineration is one of those sources. And so it would seem more than a little ironic that the EPA would choose to dispose of dioxin in a manner that would at the same time create it. Those who favor hazardous waste incinerators point out the presumed state-of-the-art efficiency of thermal technology.

That kind of hard-nosed attitude is often trotted out and displayed as expedient pragmatism. At the same time, it is a convenient means of defending lucrative government contracts between the hazardous waste disposal industry and the federal government. William C. Anderson is no stranger to that largesse. His resume shows that in the past he has worked on a PCB cleanup in Utah for the Army. IT, the incinerator operator, also has longstanding ties to federal coffers. A Standard &;Poor’s report from August indicates that 63 percent of IT sales in 1995 involved U.S. government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Energy. In 1994, when congressional legislation threatened stronger oversight of hazardous waste incinerators, including the Times Beach incinerator, IT complained to the Security and Exchange Commission that the plan would jeopardize millions of dollars of its assets and “could (have a) material adverse effect to the company’s consolidated financial condition.”

Obviously, somebody listened. The adverse effects of the incinerator’s emissions on human health be damned.

BLOOD FEUD

Opponents of the Times Beach incinerator question the results of a newly released study measuring dioxin levels in nearby residents’ blood

BY C.D. STELZER

first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Nov. 13, 1996

The Missouri Department of Health (DoH) refused on Friday to make public any scientific data relating to its blood study of residents who live near the Times Beach dioxin incinerator.

The Riverfront Times had asked for the data so it could be independently analyzed. The newspaper’s request follows the premature announcement by the DoH last week that indicates dioxin levels in the vicinity of the Superfund site are among lowest ever recorded in the nation.

Daryl Roberts, chief epidemiologist for the state, rejected the possibility of releasing the raw numbers on the grounds of protecting the confidentiality of the subjects involved in the study. “I can’t provide it,” Roberts told the RFT. “The best I can give you is what’s in the news release.”

Pat Costner, a chemist for the environmental group Greenpeace, took exception to Roberts reasoning. “When those samples go into the lab, they’re numbered — they don’t have people’s names on them,” says Costner. “As long as there are no names on the data, it’s not a violation of confidence.”
Environmentalists opposed to the incinerator contend that the DoH’s selective analysis is seriously flawed and that publication of partial results is a violation of scientific standards that require such studies be peer reviewed before release.

“This isn’t science this is bullshit,” says Steve Taylor of the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG). “The methods for testing dioxin blood levels can be complicated or even deceptive. Due to the sensitivity of tests like these and their impact on our community, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recognizes the importance of having results peer reviewed before publication.” Taylor says the DoH released the limited data in advance of the completion of the study in order to support the position that the incinerator is not a threat to public health.

In order to bolster the purported safety of the incinerator, the DoH restricted its published analysis to 2,3,7,8 TCDD — only one of many types of dioxins and other hazardous materials being burned at Times Beach. “TCDD represents about 10 percent of the total dioxin equivalents in a human body,” says Costner. “Nobody even talks about TCDD anymore because it’s such a minor contributor.”

The agency first tested dioxin levels of nearby residents in September 1995 and then again in July, four months after the incinerator began operating. Based on its analysis, the DoH now claims dioxin blood levels of nearby residents and a comparison group are far below the national average of 3.2 to 10.1 parts per trillion (ppt). Among nearby Times Beach residents, dioxin blood levels allegedly declined from 1.81 ppt to 1.24 ppt, according to the DoH.

Taylor of TBAG debates whether the national average for dioxin blood levels is valid because it is based on discredited or obsolete studies. He also brands the current analysis inconclusive in that it measures only dioxin levels in lipids or fats. In addition, the DoH study excludes those most likely to be effected: children, the elderly and anyone exposed to excessive dioxin levels in the past.

Besides these drawbacks, the DoH estimates are based on only four months of exposure to incineration. That short period, says Taylor, allows for little more than an inhalation study and ignores the long-term potential for ingesting dioxins through the food chain, which experts consider the primary path of exposure.

On this point, DoH and TBAG are in rare agreement. “Yeah, we’re looking at the inhalation exposure at this time,” says Roberts. “However, as another part of the protocol, we have collected vegetable and soil samples … and they are currently in storage.” But the state epidemiologist would not hazard a guess when those samples would be analyzed. “I don’t even have a laboratory that’s going to do the work (yet),” Roberts says. In regard to other chemical contaminants, the DoH press release last week stated that “a cursory look found no increased levels to cause concern.” None of the other data will be released until after the completion of the third blood draw expected within a month of the completion of incineration, according to Roberts. At that late stage, it will be too late to protect public health, if the incinerator is indeed dangerous.

Roberts sees nothing sinister in the timing of the latest announcement, and says it was part of the plan. “We talked to ATSDR and discussed the need to release the first two values publicly to provide information so the community can at least determine whether it believes its had an excessive exposure or not,” says Roberts. “TCDD is the congener of concern in Missouri. Other contaminants of concern have toxic equivalence factors magnitudes lower than TCDD. The best I can say is that we reported out the information as it was provided to us from Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and CDC is the best laboratory in the nation.”

Costner of Greenpeace considers the DoH findings absurd. “If magically all the people around Times Beach were able to buy food with no dioxin in it, and breath air with no dioxin, it would then still take more than two years from September 95 for their TCDD levels to be expected to drop to the levels that they (DoH) are claiming for the second set of samples,” she says. “Are they saying the incinerator is sucking the dioxin out those people’s bodies? That’s what their data suggests. Does that make sense?”

Results of a separate ATSDR study released in September found abnormally high cancer rates among former residents of Times Beach and other Missouri dioxin sites. Interestingly, the DoH blood study, tentatively scheduled for release around the same time, was held up due to delays at the CDC laboratory, according to Roberts. The DoH finally released its optimistic findings in the aftermath of last week’s state and national elections. One day later, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had more good news. A DNR investigation absolved International Technologies (IT) of any possible wrongdoing or conflict of interest regarding its partial ownership of Quanterra Environmental Services (“Twice Burned,” RFT, Aug. 28). The month-long state inquiry found IT and Quanterra guilty of nothing more than poor paperwork.

Meanwhile, the incineration forges ahead with no end in sight. Approximately, 228,000 tons of dioxin-contaminated soil and other materials from 27 sites in Eastern Missouri are expected to be burned before the cleanup is completed. This is more than twice as much waste as originally estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

TALENT TO BURN

U.S. Rep. Jim Talent requests a shutdown of the Times Beach of the Times Beach dioxin incinerator

BY C.D. STELZER

first published by the Riverfront Times (St. Louis),Oct. 2, 1996

Last Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jim Talent (R-2nd Dist.) requested an immediate shut down of the Times Beach dioxin incinerator pending an investigation into the mishandling of stack emissions samples at the controversial Superfund cleanup.

The congressman made the request in a letter to Elliot Laws, assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C. The letter also asked the agency to re-conduct the trial burn at the incinerator near Eureka to assure it is operating safely.

Talent, who is running for re-election against former Democratic Congresswoman Joan Kelly Horn, has long voiced opposition to the dioxin incinerator. His intermittent efforts to halt the project, however, have failed to bring about any change in plans. Talent’s latest attempt to put out the fire follows a copyrighted story in the Riverfront Times (“Twice Burned,”Aug. 28).

The RFT story revealed that International Technologies (IT), the incinerator operator, partially owns Quanterra Environmental Services, the laboratory that handled emissions samples from critical stack tests conducted at the incinerator in November 1995. After Quanterra received the samples, it took seven to eight days for them to reach Triangle Laboratories in North Carolina, according to EPA documents. Environmentalists suspect that improper handling of the samples during that time may have invalidated the test results. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the requisite operating permit based in part on the results of the laboratory analysis.

Although Talent referred indirectly to the RFT’s continuing investigation of the Times Beach project in his letter to the EPA, the congressman refused to be interviewed for this story. Talent’s reticence is not unique. Calls placed to the DNR last week also went unreturned. The EPA has had little to say either.

After the RFT filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to obtain information on Quanterra’s involvement in the project, the agency’s regional headquarters in Kansas City claimed no such records existed and denied any association with the laboratory. “Please be advised that EPA has no documents responsive to this request. Quanterra has no official relationship with EPA regarding the Eastern Missouri Dioxin Sites Cleanup, including Times Beach,” an EPA offcial stated.

The denial contradicts a clause in the 1990 consent decree signed jointly by representatives of the EPA, DNR and Syntex, the corporation liable for the cleanup. The consent decree states: “…Settling Defendants shall notify EPA and the State, in writing, of the name, title, and qulaifications of any supervising contractor, and the names of principal contractors and/or subcontractors proposed to be used in carrying out the Work. Selection of any such contractor shall be subject to approval by EPA, after consultation with the State, which shall not be unreasonably withheld. EPA shall notify the Settling Defendants in writing of its approval or disapproval within 14 calendar days of receipt of the notice.”

KEEPING A SAFE DISTANCE

Last year, EPA boss Carol Browner withdrew from decision-making about Times Beach. Meanwhile, inquiries about the dioxin incinerator continue to rage

BY C.D. STELZER

First published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Sept. 11, 1996

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)administrator Carol M. Browner has withdrawn from all decision-making responsibilities concerning the Times Beach cleanup, The Riverfront Times has learned.

Browner recused herself from addressing any aspects of the controversial Superfund project in an internal agency memorandum dated April 5, 1995. The administrator’s office in Washington, D.C. provided the RFT with a copy of Browner’s statement last week upon request.

The recusal statement does not specify why Browner bowed out of the case. An EPA spokeswoman now says Browner relinquished oversight because the administrator’s sister works for the corporation liable for the cleanup. Michelle Browner, the EPA chief’s sibling, is a research scientist for Roche Bio-Science in Palo Alto, Calif. Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical conglomerate, purchased Syntex Corp. in 1994. Syntex, the responsible party, must burn the dioxin-contaminated soil at Times Beach and 26 other sites in Eastern Missouri, according to the to the 1990 federal consent decree with the EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A subsidiary of Syntex, Agribusiness Technologies Inc., is carrying out the plan.

News of Browner’s withdrawal follows the initiation of a DNR inquiry into whether stack emissions samples were handled properly last November, after a trial burn at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator near Eureka. Earlier this year, the DNR issued a permit for the burner based in part on the results of those tests. Opponents of the incinerator, including the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG), raised concerns last month about a potential conflict of interest, after they discovered International Technology Corp. (IT), the incinerator operator, partially owns Quanterra Environmental Services, the lab that handled the samples (Twice Burned, the RFT, Aug. 28) .

“I am aware of the allegations by TBAG, and we are checking on those allegations,” says DNR director David Shorr. “I don’t believe there were any shenanigans here. The only question that I am looking into is whether there was a prospect of a breach in the chain of custody (of the stack emissions samples). … It’s not that we believe that there was a breach in the chain of custody, but we’ve have had that inquiry made to us.”
Shorr expresses equal confidence in Browner’s hands-off policy. “I am not aware of her ever being involved in Times Beach during her tenure,” says Shorr. “She has properly recused herself. All decisions from EPA, at least that we have had, have been through either Elliott Laws, the assistant administrator for waste or deputy (administrator) Fred Hansen.”

Martha Steincamp, chief counsel for Region VII of the EPA in Kansas City, views Browner’s recusal as insignificant. “Frankly, there have been no decisions that would be made at the administrator’s level on this case, anyway,” says Steincamp. “The decisions are made out here in the Region.

“The really important thing to remember is this is what one does, when one wants to take one’s self out of the decision making process — you recuse yourself,” says Steincamp. “She didn’t consult with me when she did it. Until you told me, I didn’t know that it was her sister or what this person’s name was. That’s not what I need to know to do my job. What I need to know to do my job is don’t go looking to Carol Browner on decision making on Times Beach.”

The EPA administrator, however, does wield statutory power over the Times Beach Superfund project. According to the consent decree:

EPA shall review the remedial action at the Facilities at least every five (5) years after the entry of this Decree to assure that human health and the environment are being protected by the remedial action being implemented. … Settling Defendants shall be provided with an opportunity to confer with EPA on any response action proposed during the EPA’s 5 year review process and to submit written comments for the record during the public comment period. After the period for submission of written comments is closed, the Administrator shall, in writing, determine if further response action is appropriate. …

In other words, the EPA could have reviewed the safety of the project and implemented changes to the plan at any time since the 1990 decree was signed, but the agency was required to do so within five years. The decree mandates that based on that review the EPA administrator take appropriate steps to protect public health and the environment, if necessary.

It didn’t happen. The five-year deadline expired July 19, 1995. According to the EPA internal memo, Browner recused herself on April 5, 1995.

Steincamp, whose signature appears on the consent decree, says the Times Beach agreement is superseded by a clause in the Superfund law, which requires that the “remedial action” (in this case incineration) be completed before the review takes place.

A high-ranking official at EPA headquarters in Washington, on the other hand, says the Superfund provision means the Times Beach project can’t be reviewed because the incinerator hasn’t been operating for five years. The cleanups at Times Beach and other Eastern Missouri dioxin sites, however, have been going on for well over five years.
The two interpretations of the law share one thing in common — they thwart any review of the project until after the incineration is completed. Here is how the pertinent Superfund clause actually reads:

If the President selects a remedial action that results in any hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants remaining at the site, the President shall review such remedial action no less often than each 5 years after the initiation of such remedial action to assure that human health and the environment are being protected by the remedial action being implemented. …

Hugh Kaufman, an EPA whistleblower, is candid in his opinion as to why Browner chose to distance herself from the project. “Well, Times Beach is getting hot now,” says Kaufman. “Carol Browner tries to find a reason to recuse herself from any sticky wicket case,” he adds. “She did that with the WTI (Waste Technologies Industries) incinerator. Apparently, her husband works for a group called Citizen Action, where she used to work. Citizen Action, at one time, … signed a letter asking the state of Ohio to relook at this mess. … The real reason she recused herself is because it’s a big sticky wicket issue involving Jackson Stephens … and the Clinton/Arkansas connection.”

Kaufman is referring to the WTI commercial hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio. Stephens, who founded WTI in 1980, is a Little Rock financier who has padded the campaign coffers of both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in the past. Stephens and WTI have also been linked to the Union Bank of Switzerland, which has been implicated along with the CIA in the BCCI and Nugan-Hand banking scandals. The WTI incinerator was permitted to operate even though it emitted despite unsafe levels of dioxin.

In 1983, Kaufman felt the heat from Times Beach himself. The whistleblower then appeared on the Phil Donahue TV talk show and alleged that U.S. Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) had received a list of potential dioxin sites in Missouri, while state attorney general, and had failed to do anything about it. During that period, Kaufman was the EPA’s chief hazardous waste investigator. His inquiry here led him to suspect that Russell Bliss, the waste hauler responsible spreading the dioxin, had connections to the “power-elite culture” in Missouri. “When I raised the issue of him being part of the old boy network of which Danforth was a member, Danforth screamed bloody murder,” says Kaufman.

The current dilemma with the incinerator has parallels with the past, according to Kaufman. He compares the political and social climate in Missouri to a banana republic. “Nothing changes, ” he says. “Especially, when you’ve got Ralston Purina and Monsanto. You’ve got an elite club, and the disposal boys are a part of that club. It’s like Arkansas — you’ve got an aristocracy — and then you’ve got everybody else.”

Confirmation of Kaufman’s jaded view can now be seen billowing from the stacks at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator, where state and federal regulators continue to turn a blind eye to an obvious public health risk. Studies by the EPA itself indicate dioxin is a probable human carcinogen and the cause of immunological and reproductive problems. The agency also acknowledges that incineration is one of the means by which dioxin is created.

Nevertheless, the EPA and DNR claim the Times Beach incinerator is safe. These assurances have continued despite a series of toxic releases at the incinerator this spring that bypassed pollution control devices and dispersed contaminants into the air. The odds of similar accidents occurring increased in July, when Syntex pushed back the completion date of the burn until next year because an estimated 70 tons of additional dioxin-tainted dirt will need to be destroyed.

Prior to firing up the incinerator, federal Judge John F. Nangle, the jurist responsible for the consent decree, ruled in the EPA’s favor, outlawing a St. Louis County ordinance that would have required that stack emissions meet the agency’s own stringent standard of 99.9999 percent destruction efficiency.

TWICE BURNED

The lab involved in testing emissions at Times Beach is partly owned by the company that operates the dioxin incinerator

BY C.D. STELZER
first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Aug. 28, 1996

When IT Analytical Services merged with another company and became Quanterra Environmental Services in 1994, the nascent laboratory didn’t even bother to change the phone number. The newly formed company also remained at the same location, 13715 Rider Trail North, in a strip of innocuous one-story offices known as the Business Center in Earth City. The doors to the lab were locked last Saturday, and mirror windows made it impossible to see the interior. Corporation records at the Missouri secretary of state’s office in Jefferson City show that Quanterra was officially dissolved as a business in the state in late 1994.

Nevertheless, the lab took part in important tests of stack emissions conducted in November 1995 at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund cleanup near Eureka (see sidebar). The test results assured the EPA, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the public that the incinerator would operate safely. Based on these test results and other criteria, the DNR issued a requisite permit for the incinerator to operate earlier this year.

Despite the mirror windows at the lab and the smoke now flowing from the incinerator stacks, this much is clear: IT Analytical was owned by International Technology Corp. (IT), and Quanterra, its successor, is still partially controlled by IT–the builder and operator of the Times Beach dioxin incinerator. IT, in turn, has a contract with Syntex, the corporation held liable for disposing of dioxin-contaminated soil at Times Beach
and more than two dozen other sites in Eastern Missouri.

In short, the lab involved in testing incinerator emissions is partly owned by the company that operates the incinerator.

Steve Taylor, an organizer for the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG), objected to the Quanterra-IT relationship in a meeting with high-level EPA officials last Wednesday night at the Hilton Hotel in Frontenac. Robert Martin, the ombudsman from the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, chaired the meeting, which was attended by 15 citizens, an aide to U.S. Rep. Jim Talent (R-2nd) and two other EPA officals.

“We have always had problems with how the trial burn was conducted. Now we have found that IT — the owner of the incinerator — was solely responsible forthe physical custody of the stack samples,” Taylor says. “There has always been a serious problem with credibility with (EPA) Region VII and the information that we’ve received pertaining to this incinerator (see sidebar). To date, this is probably the most blatant example of allowing those who have a financial interest in this cleanup to proceed without any oversight.”

That a laboratory with ties to the incinerator operator would be allowed to handle test samples from a Superfund site is enough to raise concerns, but there is another nettlesome detail that casts doubt on the credibility of the lab work.

In 1990, IT purchased the assets of metaTRACE, a laboratory located at the same address in Earth City and having the same phone number as the two previously cited labs. In the year preceding the acquisition, metaTRACE came under scrutiny for conducting fraudulent tests for the EPA, including faulty soil analysis at Times Beach and other dioxin sites in Eastern Missouri. Ultimately, the EPA canceled metaTRACE’s contracts and two company officials pled guilty to fraud charges. The rescinded contracts had a value of more than $8.7 million.Most of that money was earmarked for EPA Region VII, which includes the St. Louis
area.

After purchasing metaTRACE, IT moved its own analytical operation into the defunct lab’s Earth City office. MetaTRACE didn’t dissolve until 1992, according to Martha Steincamp, head counsel for Region VII. So it appears IT Analytical in some manner shared the facility. IT even hired some of metaTRACE’s employees, Steincamp concedes. When the sign on the front door changed to Quanterra in 1994, IT Engineering conveniently moved in next door. Again, if this is not disturbing enough, state records show that Quanterra was dissolved in December 1994 for failure to file an annual report. Quanterra,in other words, doesn’t even exist as a corporate fiction in the state.

IT created Quanterra in May 1994, when it merged IT Analytical with Enseco, an environmental test lab owned by Corning Inc. Originally, each company held a 50 percent stake in the joint subsidiary. IT’s share of the lab has since decreased to 19 percent, following a $20 million buyout by Corning in January. The change in the percentage of ownership, however, did not take place until after criticalstack-emissions tests were conducted in November. The results of those tests were published in January. Quanterra’s name appears on the title page of that report. Despite the lab’s obvious role in the stack tests and its connections to IT, Bob Feild — the EPA project manager at Times Beach — denied knowledge of Quanterra’s participation at last week’s meeting in Frontenac. Under questioning by Mick Harrison, an attorney for the Citizens Against Dioxin Incineration (CADI), Feild stated: “I’m not aware of any involvement that they (Quanterra) had in the chain of custody.”

Feild’s denial contradicts documents provided to the RFT by the Region VII office last Friday. The documents show a representative of Quanterra signed over stack-emissions samples to an employee of Triangle Laboratories of Durham, N.C. Triangle was charged with analyzing the samples. Nevertheless, a lapse of seven to eight days existed between the time the samples were collected and the point when Quanterra handed them over to the other lab. Environmentalists familiar with the case say the time lapse could invalidate the tests results, if the samples were not stored and handled properly.

In a phone interview on Monday, Feild dismissed all of these issues as inconsequential. Feild argued that it is standard procedure for the incinerator operator to collect test samples. He claimed all aspects of the tests were overseen properly by the EPA and that safeguards prohibited any kind of manipulation of the findings.

“We haven’t done any research as to the current status of a company called Quanterra,” Feild says. “It doesn’t really matter if IT themselves did the work or if they paid a partially owned subsidiary to do the work. The contractual relationship between the operator and Syntex is really not pertinent here. It’s not our concern, and we certainly don’t have that information. We don’t know who Quanterra is under direct contract with.”

The RFT filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the EPA on this matter last Friday. In a letter to EPA regional administrator Dennis Grams last week, Rep. Talent, whose district includes Times Beach, requested “all chain of custody documents for all stack samples collected during the dioxin stack test, which took place in November of 1995.” A spokesperson for Talent could not be reached for comment. Spokespersons for IT, Quanterra and Corning did not return calls placed to them. An official at the EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division in Kansas City would not confirm or deny whether an inquiry had been initiated into the matter. This latest controversy follows an announcement in July that the completion date for the incineration has been pushed back to early next year because an estimated 70 tons of additional
contaminated dirt will need to be burned. Since initiating operations in March, the incinerator has been plagued by a series of emergency releases that have spewed unknown quantities of untreated dioxin-contaminated particulate matter into the atmosphere. The EPA’s own dioxin draft reassessment concludes that dioxin is a likely human carcinogen and is responsible for reproductive and immunological problems. EPA research further indicates that everyone is already overexposed to the toxin, and incineration is one of the sources of the pollution.