EPA Project Manager Related to Wildwood Dioxin Accused of Hiding Information
Integrity of Environmental Protection Agency rep Bob Feild, the same manager assigned to oversee safety reassessment of Wildwood's Strecker Forest Development near the former worst U.S. Superfund site, has been called into question.
Trust is waivering of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official scheduled to deliver the agency's final report regarding the long-term health safety of Wildwood's former Superfund site area at a public open house June 21.
EPA Project Manager Robert "Bob" Feild is the subject of a lawsuit in Omaha, NE, which alleges he covered up information about the causes of lead contamination there, per Union Pacific representatives. See legal documents that accompany this article. Feild is the same project manager with whom Wildwood city representatives have been dealing to determine if land encircling the former Superfund spot in Wildwood is truly safe for human living.
Since 2007, Wildwood representatives have been trading information and test results with EPA officials regarding the former Superfund site located in Wildwood, which was remediated and then purchased by a local resident whose goal was to create a new subdivision there: Strecker Forest. Wildwood city council members eventually voted to reverse the city's authorization of the subdivision, which prompted a lawsuit from the local home-builder Wesley Byrne.
The chain of controversy was thought to be culminating later this month at the EPA open house, however, now Feild has been accused of allegedly destroying EPA environmental evidence, and of encouraging other EPA employees to do so—sparking a new round of controversy fraught with new issues. Allegations of Feild's activities also surfaced at Monday night's Wildwood City Council meeting.
Unusual Communique Received by Patch
On May 10, Glenn Simpson, partner and chief executive of a research firm called Fusion GPS in Washington, DC, emailed Eureka-Wildwood Patch stating officials had found emails by EPA's Feild that said: “Delete messages like this one after they are sent so you don’t end up getting subpoenaed” (2005) and “please delete this message after reading – we receive regular FOIA requests” (2006).
Simpson stated Feild also filed a court affidavit swearing EPA had no documents, which he said turned out to be untrue. EPA eventually admitted Feild hid documents, emailed Simpson. "The court complaint lays all this out. There was a story about this in the Omaha paper. We were told that Feild was taken off the Omaha project in 2010 after he was caught withholding documents, but is still working on the Wildwood project. This is coming up now because another company, Asarco, is asking a federal judge here in Washington to overturn a settlement based on the evidence EPA lied."
Regarding Times Beach, Simpson stated there was an FBI investigation in the mid-1990s over whether EPA ignored or hid information about sources of pollution and falsified or botched test results. Feild was the site manager, Simpson referenced.
See recent Patch articles about EPA returning to Times Beach just this month:
On two occasions in the 1990s, Simpson stated the Riverfront Times accused Feild of withholding information or not telling the truth. One issue was whether EPA knew the dangers of dioxin incineration. The second was when Field told a lawyer for Citizens Against Dioxin Incineration he was not aware a company called Quanterra was involved in some tests, and it turned out Quanterra was owned by the same company that did the dioxin incineration.
"I guess there's a third issue of whether EPA/Feild gave accurate info to Wildwood about the dioxin there," Simpson's email to Patch concluded.
Historical References to Lead Case
Manufacturing.net published June 24, 2010: Union Pacific Corp. asked a federal judge to order the EPA to stop destroying records the railroad requested about lead contamination in Omaha. The article stated EPA and Union Pacific representatives had been trying for years to settle who should pay more than $200 million to clean up 5,600 lead-contaminated properties in the railroad's home city after a disagreement about the contamination source.
U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp issued a temporary restraining order to the EPA not to destroy any records the railroad requested while the lawsuit was progressing.
In Union Pacific's lawsuit, railroad representatives quotes from several e-mails where an EPA supervisor encourages employees to delete messages so they won't be subject to release as public records under the Freedom of Information Act.
In one e-mail the lawsuit references, the EPA supervisor overseeing the Omaha lead site, Robert Feild, wrote: "It will be critical that every i is dotted and t crossed since we are under a microscope. please delete this message after reading—we receive regular FOIA requests from Union Pacific for our e-mails. thanks, Bob F."
Riverfront Times Surfaces Again
A spokesperson for EPA Region 7 reportedly answered questions about Feild and the Omaha case in a statement published by a blogger for the Riverfront Times June 5.
In response to the allegations related to the Feild e-mails, EPA interviewed 15 agency employees who were either recipients of the Feild e-mails or who were identified as primary custodians of documents related to the Omaha Lead Site (OLS). Not one EPA employee who was interviewed said they deleted an e-mail or any other document at Feild's request. In compliance with the Federal Records Act and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regulations, EPA's Records Officer reported to NARA through an October 25, 2010, letter the results of the interviews and other actions taken by the agency to secure all existing documents related to the OLS. In a June 27, 2011 response letter, NARA informed EPA that it had closed its file on the matter.
In the Omaha case, the agency produced more than 77,000 documents consisting of more than 1.1 million pages in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.
Specific to Wildwood, the Riverfront Times staff indicated the EPA statement reads: "EPA has no reason to believe Feild has mishandled any documents in connection with Wildwood." Citing personal privacy laws, the agency declined to say whether Feild was disciplined in any way over the Omaha case, according to the Riverfront Times post.
Wildwood Officials Now Wonder
At Wildwood's City Council meeting Monday evening, council member Tammy Shea, Ward 3, called the allegations of Feild a "significant discovery."
Feild purged himself in the lead contamination case, Shea said, and "instructed subordinates to destroy emails to keep them away from public records." She said she believed this behavior already had impacted the lead contamination sites, and that it is reason to pause and evaluate the validity of results to be issued about Wildwood's situation.
"There was a 1980 scandal of the EPA, like this, where 14 people lost their jobs," said Shea. "This is old (EPA) behavior. These are serious allegations. This is a serious crime. If he (Feild) is comfortable lying to a judge, think about how easy it would be to lie to people."
Shea said Feild took these alleged steps when "poised to provide professional testimony to a litigation matter." She said she is concerned because Feild again is in that role regarding Wildwood's public safety matter.
Patch research revealed environmental engineer Feild once was recognized for "exceptional contributions to the successful solution of national dioxin problems." (Source: The EPA Times, January 1988, Vol. 5, No. 1)