Russ Ptacek's continuing investigation for Channel 41 regarding sick employees at the Bannister Federal Complex -- sick workers employed outside the Honeywell factory, from the neighboring General Services Administration and IRS facilities in the complex -- has yielded a major bombshell (no pun intended).
A government insider leaked a letter to Ptacek from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to the GSA administrators of the Bannister facility, urging them to follow up on several environmental concerns (emphasis in bold is ours):
Groundwater testing should be done near Building 50, evidence of a PCB spill cleanup should be monitored properly, and several areas where lead, arsenic and Aroclor 1260 are present should be cleaned.
A former IRS landfill area should be tested for contaminants, if it hasn't been already.
Building 4 should be more thoroughly analyzed to check for evidence of solvents and petroleum products.
GSA buildings and a day care area should be more thoroughly checked for contamination by TCE (tricholorethylene). "The Department requests that the GSA develop a detailed sampling and analysis plan for indoor air sampling at the day care center."
"If and when" the GSA declares the Bannister Complex property to be out
of government ownership, "appropriate land use controls must be
included in all of the transfer documentation. Because of the
historical uses at this site ... and relatively small definition of the
nature and extent of the multitude of contaminants used throughout the
site's history, either extensive remediation, Land Use Controls or a combination of the two are needed. [They] must be robust, effective and enforceable in order to maintain protection of human health and the environment."
Another document, dated January 22, 2010, is a letter addressed to Branden B. Doster, the Chief of the DNR's Remediation and Radiological Assessment Unit. It's from Cherri Baysinger, Chief of the Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology department of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. In this letter, Baysinger notes that a test of a ground water plume of CVOCs (chlorinated volitile organic contaminents) below two buildings at the Bannister complex did not include the type of screenings recommended by the EPA for carcinogenic levels of TCE (tricholorethylene) and PCE (tetrachloroethyline).
Those who read this feature story may remember that TCE was the chemical in which Honeywell workers would dip their fingers because it would make their nails grow overnight.
Baysinger's letter noted numerous other shortcomings in the GSA's environmental inspection procedures completed at the Bannister site, which were detailed in a May 2008 DNR report. The Department of Health and Human Services chief recommended that, in two of the buildings on the site, the breathable air, groundwater and soil "should undergo a more comprehensive evaluation."
When I was working on this story about sick Kansas City Plant workers, the Deputy Manager of Operations for the plant, Patrick Hoopes, told me there was no conceivable way that anyone at the GSA or IRS facilities could be sickened by the toxic chemicals present in the factory. "If they were working in a different area, they're totally isolated," Hoopes said at the time. "There's no way for GSA or IRS people to come into our spaces, and there is security so people don't come back and forth." He told me the GSA and IRS buildings don't share HVAC systems with the factory, though they do share a common water and sewer system.
Hoopes and I spoke on November 10, 2009. I left him a message today that he has not yet returned.
Charlie Cook at the GSA told me today, "We ran some air sampling tests at the child care center over the weekend with the EPA and we're waiting for those test results to come back now."
We'll keep you posted.