It’s a bit bizarre to me to be sitting in the back row of a Montana courtroom listening to another day of testimony in the criminal trial of W.R. Grace, while at the same time writing about reported cleanup problems of the lethal mess the same company made in the town of Libby.
Just to keep people (including me) from becoming confused, let me stress that this has nothing to do with the charges against Grace.
Nevertheless, here’s what Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility had to say today about the investigation in 2006 by EPA’s inspector general’s office.
The IG said it found no need for criminal action after its review of the cleanup, but PEER, a union-like organization that sued to get a report on investigation made public, said there were “critical deficiencies” in the agency’s actions.
The suit prompted the release yesterday of the of a 2006 investigation by IG Special Agent Cory Rumple.
Rumple was looking into allegations of public health concerns about the methods employed by EPA to remove asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from homes within Libby.
Accord to PEER, problems found by Rumple included:
· A thorough “disconnect between scientists and the agency” over how to conduct the clean-up; distribution of “exceptionally deceiving” public health information to Libby residents and fighting within the EPA that led to “dysfunctional decisions and resignations of key specialists.
Because of the ongoing Grace trial, none of the EPA people that I called for comment who were involved in the cleanup were permitted to talk, though some were eager.
PEER Executive Jeff Ruch says the IG report “raises more questions than it answers, including why it was hidden from the public.”
Rumple’s clear conclusion in his report that the Libby problems did not constitute criminal violations, the IG nevertheless launched a 21-month-long criminal investigation which resulted in the Justice Department declining to bring any charges.
“As a result of the Inspector General pursuing a fruitless criminal inquiry, today we still do not have a clear idea of whether the Libby clean-up is protective of the public,” Ruch added.