Bannister officials withheld contamination papers

A government audit says Bannister officials wrongly withheld a document on toxic contamination from its response to an NBC Action News Freedom of Information Act request.

The missing January 7, 2005 letter from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to General Services Administration is critical of the GSA’s investigation into trichloroethylene (TCE) near the complex’s day care.

“While the impact of this letter is not fully known at this time, it nevertheless should have been produced to comply with FOIA requirements,” wrote Regional Inspector John Walsh with the GSA’s Office of Inspector General in his report.

Shortly after Walsh released his report, GSA officials obtained the missing eleven page document and released it to NBC Action News.

“We apologize that such an oversight occurred,” said Regional Administrator Jason Klumb in a statement. “GSA will take the necessary corrective actions to help prevent a similar occurrence in the future.”

Klumb has called for a review of the agency’s Freedom of Information Act process.

An agency spokeswoman estimated the GSA had provided NBC Action News 31,000 pages of documents in response to our original FOIA request.

The Office of Inspector General also provided copies of the report to congressional offices in Washington.

“We expect all of our Federal agencies to be responsive to FOIA requests,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. “I will be speaking with the administrator about this issue and will ask him to explain how and why this letter was not produced as a result of a lawful request.”

“Senator Bond feels strongly that the GSA should be complying fully with all FOIA requests and looks forward to the Inspector General’s full report,” said Jordan Clothier in the office of Sen. Kit Bond.

The report that was withheld identifies multiple failures identified by Missouri officials in the way the GSA was reporting on and controlling toxins.

“As you will see from the review, we fear the GSA is not taking the correct approach to investigate and remediate this site,” wrote MoDNR Environmental Engineer Scott Honig.

Honig also criticized GSA conclusions that suggested contamination levels were decreasing.

“There is no basis for this conclusion and it is not backed up with data from the DOE (U.S. Dept. of Energy),” Honig wrote. “Please provide data for this conclusion or remove it.”

In the missing document, the MoDNR official criticized existing GSA safety plans and encouraged GSA officials to create a stronger plan to identify health concerns.

“The risk management plan will identify activities to be implemented to protect human health and the environment,” Honig wrote. “The current document provides no plan for source removal, no information on operational time frames for a pump and treat system, or a plan for institutional controls or compliance monitoring.”




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