KANSAS CITY, Missouri - An audit released by the Office of Inspector General at the Environmental Protection agency says “the public health risks” at the Bannister Federal Complex “have not been determined.”
The EPA took over testing at the facility after a 2009 NBC Action News investigation identified a death list put together by workers in General Services Administration controlled space who believed rare cancers and breathing disorders were occurring at an abnormal rate.
The NBC Action News investigation identified similar illnesses on the other side of the complex where Honeywell makes non-nuclear parts for nuclear bombs under contract with the National Nuclear Security Administration.
“Essentially, the concern is that volatile chemicals underground emit vapors that can intrude into overlying buildings,” GSA Regional Administrator Jason Klumb told GSA workers and tenants at Bannister Monday in an e-mail.
The EPA and Missouri officials have identified massive soil and groundwater contamination underneath buildings at the complex stemming from 60 years of weapons production and waste dumping.
The number of dead Bannister employees now stands at 138 that family members have reported to NBC Action News with concerns of environmental contamination.
The national EPA investigation criticized EPA Region 7, headquartered in Kansas City, for isolating testing to one part of the complex and not expanding contamination examination at Bannister to include the majority of office and manufacturing space at the facility.
“Vapor intrusion has not been assessed for the entire Bannister Federal Complex, therefore the public health risk for the entire facility has not been determined,” the audit ruled.
Klumb told workers the agencies are already responding to the audit by expanding testing to the entire GSA controlled building.
“As part of the GSA/EPA environmental work plan, we are also beginning previously scheduled vapor intrusion studies in buildings 1, 2 and 4 this month,” Klumb wrote in the internal e-mail. “The report concluded that vapor intrusion health risks at Bannister are not a concern for buildings 50 and 52, but that it is unknown for other buildings.”
The complex houses about 4,000 workers and has provided offices for day care facilities, IRS, Defense Finance Accounting Service, USDA, FAA, Marine Corps, Marine Corps Finance Center, and GSA services on the GSA side, and on the plant side Bendix, Allied-Signal, and Honeywell.
NBC Action News has tallied more than 400 current and former workers on its list of sick and dead.
The critical audit focused on a part of the complex that houses a day care where the Office of Inspector General faulted EPA officials for not testing for a wider range of vapor contaminates.
“Additional actions would provide a more comprehensive picture of the chemical hazards in the indoor air,” the report said.
“As I’ve said on several occasions, I assure you that we will remain vigilant in our assessment of Bannister,” Klumb said in the statement. “We will adhere to the recommendations of our own IG report and that of the EPA’s.”
The GSA’s Inspector General report faulted the agency for misleading the public and for not maintaining standard environmental tests to ensure worker safety.
Despite two months of requests, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has not responded to interview requests about the death list or findings that senior agency officials misled the public about the response to health risks.
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