KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Environmental Protection Agency has released plans that could allow reuse of the Bannister Federal Complex and avoid special Superfund status at the site where NBC Action News has identified hundreds of sick or dead workers.
"We are extremely disappointed in this decision," said Sierra Club spokesman Scott Dye. "In our opinion redevelopment of this site has taken precedent over justice."
Dye said the move would prevent crucial cleanup funding needed to make the Bannister Federal Complex safe.
The NBC Action News investigation has identified more than 900 known toxins used at the site including plutonium, uranium, and beryllium.
Our investigation also identified 155 deaths of workers family members suspect are linked to toxins at the complex.
"I feel numb," said former Bannister worker Barbara Rice. "There's three more people who died in the past three weeks."
"The faster they can just sweep all this away the better," Rice said. "The whole wind has been taken out of me the last series of months."
298 living current and former workers have registered their own illnesses at NBCActionNews.com ranging from breathing disorders to cancers that they attribute to contamination at the site.
The statement said the EPA would avoid further consideration of the site for Superfund National Priorities List status if a request is approved allowing for the entire complex to be monitored under one agency.
Currently the National Nuclear Security Administration controls one side of the complex and the General Services Administration controls other side of Bannister.
Honeywell manages a secret NNSA program at Bannister that makes non-nuclear parts for nuclear bombs.
The agency plans to move into a new facility south of Bannister in 2013.
"If the permit modifications are approved, EPA Region 7 will defer moving forward with actions to place the complex on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).," the EPA statement said.
The joint request from GSA and NNSA would have to be approved by the EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
"The permit modification process will allow the assessment and cleanup of the facility to move forward, address potential public health and environmental concerns, and will ultimately allow for the safe redevelopment and reuse of the site," said Sara Parker Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources stated in the EPA news release.
NBC Action News learned of the EPA statement announcing the proposal to avoid National Priorities List Superfund status from the Sierra Club.
EPA Associate Regional Administrator Rich Hood had not returned calls to NBC Action News at the time of publication, but a spokesman released a statement on the agreement he said the agency planned to distribute on Friday.
"We believe that placing the entire property under a single environmental program will allow for a more cohesive, comprehensive and efficient plan to ensure protection of public health and the environment." said EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks in the statement.
The NNSA also issued a statement.
"We want to move forward and get all necessary environmental work done sooner rather than later as we prepare for eventual reuse of the area owned by the NNSA," said NNSA site manager Mark Holecek in an agency statement. "Including the entire Bannister Federal Complex under the same permits allows us to work together with GSA to manage our environmental responsibilities in a more integrated manner."
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