KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Environmental Protection Agency Friday announced a deal to put the agency in charge of toxin investigations and cleanup at the Bannister Federal Complex.
The pact, called an Environmental Working Agreement, takes oversight away from the General Services Administration and makes the EPA the policing agency.
The GSA initially denied receiving a worker generated list of cancer victims at the complex that was later found in the agency’s records by an NBC Action News investigation that has uncovered hundreds of worker illnesses.
Barbara Rice, a sick former worker who sparked the NBC Action News investigation by making her own list of sick friends wept at news the EPA was taking over.
“I just had no clue a year ago when I was putting together a spread sheet that it was going to become all this,” Rice said. “All I was doing was just asking a question of this can't be a coincidence.”
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. called the agreement a landmark move towards finding answers.
“I think the best thing to do is what the Environmental Protection Agency is doing: finding out exactly what's there,” Cleaver said. “If nothing is there the people need to know. If something is there we need to move and move expeditiously.”
"This is a step in the right direction to provide the workers and the Kansas City community the answers they need and deserve,” said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.
Bond has called independent investigations after learning the NBC Action News investigation used Freedom of Information Act documents to show GSA officials knew of the worker compiled list of cancer victims.
According to the EPA statement, the agency signed a pact outlining plans to investigate and manage environmental conditions on the GSA's side of the facility.
The GSA shares space at the facility with the Honeywell managed Kansas City Plant where workers manufacture parts for nuclear bombs.
On the side of the plant where workers make non-nuclear bomb parts there is a long history of government documented illnesses that the U.S. Dept. of Labor has linked to likely causation from toxins.
There had been no government investigation into illnesses at the GSA side of the plant where Rice and others sick former workers had offices until our investigation.
“We didn't work with chemicals,” Rice said. “We had no idea of what was going on next door to us. I'm just so thankful that somebody is going to look into this.”
“The government has a responsibility to look at any possible link between what goes on at the facility and maladies that are being experienced by workers or former workers,” Cleaver said.
According to the EPA statement, GSA will continue be responsible for its own site investigations and clean-up, but the actions will be supervised by the EPA.
"I remain committed to serving our tenants at the Bannister Federal Complex and being a good neighbor in the south Kansas City community,” said the GSA Regional Administrator Jason Klumb in a statement. “I expect the EPA agreement and formation of the two councils to enhance our already thorough environmental program."
In addition to EPA probes, the Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, and the Office of the Inspector General of the GSA have launched independent probes.
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