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Tetra Tech Corruption Scandal From Uniontown Ohio To Hunters Point/Treasure Island
by repost
Friday Aug 21st, 2020 10:58 AM
The systemic corruption of the EPA including the criminal cover-up of testing at the Hunters Point Shipyard and Treasure Island by Tetra Tech is exposed in these articles
2020 hindsight brings corrupted radiation testing into focus at the EPA

Tetra Tech was part of a team of contractors hired by the EPA to clean up a toxic radioactive dump in Ohio but evidence suggests EPA implemented a cover-up instead of a cleanup, creating a playbook for institutionalizing corrupted science across the nation.

When Tetra Tech got busted years later for fraud at another radioactive site, in San Francisco, the EPA’s failure to demand best scientific practices was exposed again with dire ramifications for public health.

by Greg M. Schwartz

Government contractor Tetra Tech was paid more than $250 million by the Navy to clean up the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (HPNS) on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, including removal of radioactive waste to clear the way for lucrative real estate development projects.

But the cleanup came to a halt after the firm was discovered to have engaged in systematic fraud at the site.

The Department of Justice has joined a whistleblowers lawsuit against Tetra Tech after those employees were fired for reporting how their supervisors had falsified results of testing for radiological remediation. Tetra Tech has denied the allegations by blaming the fraud on “rogue” employees, while continuing to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in new government contracts across the nation.

Reams of documents and stakeholder interviews have shed light on how a flawed cleanup at an obscure landfill in Ohio – where Tetra Tech was also in the middle of radiation testing controversies – became a model for EPA’s work nationwide. Did the EPA’s lack of scientific accountability years ago in Ohio ultimately lead to the massive eco-fraud in San Francisco? Below is Part 1 of a four-part series.


AFSC – American Friends Service Committee
ATSDR – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry CCLT – Concerned Citizens of Lake Township
CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CIP – Community Involvement Plan
DOE – Department of Energy
DOJ – Department of Justice
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
GAO – Government Accounting Office
HPNS – Hunters Point Naval Shipyard
IEL – Industrial Excess Landfill
MNA – Monitored Natural Attenuation

NPL – National Priorities List
NRC – Nuclear Regulatory Commission
POGO – Project on Government Oversight
PRC – Planning Research Corp.
PRPs – Potentially Responsible Parties
RIFS – Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study ROD – Record of Decision
USGS – US Geological Survey
VOC – Volatile Organic Compounds

When longtime Ohio activist Chris Borello first heard about a new investigation into Tetra Tech’s role in the radiation scandal in San Francisco that has been called “the biggest case of eco-fraud in US history,” she immediately recalled the same contractor’s mistake-laden past in her own community’s backyard.

Borello lived in Northeast Ohio, 2,500 miles away from San Francisco, but right near a toxic radioactive waste dump called the Industrial Excess Landfill (IEL) about halfway between Akron and Canton in Uniontown. Hunters Point is about 20 times larger than the IEL but the two sites have a lot in common – the dumping of radioactive wastes that federal and state agencies failed to clean up. Tetra Tech was curiously involved in radiation testing controversies at both sites.

The Ohio landfill has been embroiled in controversy for decades, but few outside of the Buckeye state have heard of it. Borello founded Concerned Citizens of Lake Township (which Uniontown falls within) and has remained steadfast in her activism for more than 35 years, refusing to give up her quest for a safe cleanup and the truth about the health threats posed to the surrounding community.
This dogged dedication to environmental justice has led some reporters to describe her as “the Erin Brockovich of Ohio.”

Borello pulled up a document in the spring of 2018 confirming that Tetra Tech’s fraud at Hunters Point in San Francisco had in fact been preceded by their questionable field work at the IEL in the 1990s, catalyzing a renewed investigation into the contractor’s role at the Ohio landfill.

With the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) now proposing to allow some radioactive waste to be disposed of at municipal landfills, the IEL saga offers a timely reminder of why such a proposal is a terrible idea with dire ramifications for those who live near such locations.

The site was originally a sand-and-gravel quarry but was operated as a dump from 1966 to 1980, when a handful of well known Akron-area rubber corporations were among clients who disposed of their hazardous industrial wastes at the landfill.
Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act in 1980, which was created to enable the EPA to manage “the cleanup of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites.”

Better known as the Superfund law, the act gave the EPA the authority to force polluters, called PRPs (potentially responsible parties), to pay for remediation of such sites.

EPA placed the IEL on its National Priorities List for cleanup in 1984. The 30-acre site in Lake Township was ranked “worst” in the heavily polluted Midwest for groundwater contamination at the time. (Groundwater meaning underground, as opposed to on the surface.) The IEL curiously became the EPA’s “case in point” regarding testing methodology for radiation issues at Superfund sites nationwide, with Tetra Tech contracted to handle much of the fieldwork.

The year before IEL was designated as a Superfund site, Borello and neighbors were making crafts for sick children hospitalized at Akron Children’s Hospital in 1983 when she raised the topic of water contamination in the nearby communities of Hartville and North Canton because the issue had been highlighted in a TV news story. Her neighbor informed her that she’d been using bottled water for some time because of concerns about the nearby landfill just up the road.

Because everyone in the community was on private well water, Borello became alarmed and contacted the Ohio EPA the next day. The agency informed her that the IEL was on a list of sites around Ohio to be investigated for hazardous waste disposal.

Shortly thereafter, another neighbor informed Borello about a series of miscarriages including her own, adding that she’d begun to wonder if there was a connection with the landfill. She and another mother who had lost twins in a miscarriage raised the topic at the next Lake Township Trustees meeting. “That’s when all hell broke loose,” Borello says.

Citizens were soon further dismayed to discover that local officials were aware of the dumping of 11,000 gallons of liquid waste per day when the dump had been in operation.

Troubling eyewitness accounts from the past

Borello quickly formed Concerned Citizens of Lake Township (CCLT) by going door to door, where she heard multiple accounts of life-threatening diseases. On some streets, there were cancers in nearly every home. She also began hearing eyewitness accounts from old-time residents about something far more ominous: trucks coming into the landfill late at night bearing cargo with radioactive symbols.

Lizette and Harlan McGregor described how “many trucks came into the landfill in the early ‘70s ... loaded with 50 to a hundred stainless steel canisters with ‘hazardous’ markings on them ... The tankers would come in all through the night and dump.” Lizette eventually died of cancer that she blamed on the landfill.

“There were rings and rings of radiation-induced deaths around the landfill.” END SUGGESTED PULL QUOTE #1

Another eyewitness, Rex Shover, said at a later public meeting that during his time as a volunteer fireman he “personally saw tanker trucks carrying ‘radioactive’ insignia enter the Industrial Excess Landfill late at night after the landfill was closed.” Shover’s brother Jim had worked summers at the IEL before joining the Navy and also witnessed the mysterious trucks:

“During his Navy career, Mr. J. Shover received training in nuclear warfare, industrial radiology, radioactive materials, and associated health problems in humans, and served on the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical rapid response team, making him uniquely qualified to identify military vehicles and radiation symbols ... He identified the trucks as ‘specially-designed double-lined tankers designed to transport liquid radioactive waste material.’”

Charles Kittinger, former co-owner of the IEL, told a federal court 30 years later the following eerie tale: One

winter’s day back in 1969 or 1970, a truck arrived accompanied by two cars with military personnel. They told

Kittinger they had to get rid of some huge metal “eggs.” Kittinger explained:

“Someone had called in advance and asked if they could dump them, and I said I think it’s permissible since it’s metal. I witnessed two eggs being dumped. They said they’d be safe as long as no one tried to cut into them. One of them said that in 30 years they’d be dissipated and there wouldn’t be any radiation left in them.”

One of the men in an Army uniform instructed Kittinger never to mention the eggs to anyone.

Government agency denies cancer cluster

VIDEO CAPTION: Uniontown, Ohio, landfill news clip #15

His parents sued 18 PRPs for exposing him to the radiation and toxic chemicals suspected to have killed him. His case was referred to Dr. Elaine Panitz, MD, an expert on

occupational medicine who had trained at Harvard.

Uniontown’s 2,800 mostly working-class residents were especially worried about the unusual number of cancer

cases and birth defects near the IEL. A house-to-house study revealed 120 residents reporting cancers, birth

defects and neurological defects within two miles of the site. But firmly establishing a specific cause for cancer

and other such health issues is typically difficult.

Blanton Beltz, who grew up near the southern edge of the landfill, was a case in point. He had been one of

Borello’s first grade students at Uniontown Grade School, located just north of the dump, and later developed

bone cancer in his leg. Beltz died in 1991 at age 21.

“I have reviewed materials suggesting radiation contamination of the IEL site and surrounding groundwater,”

Dr. Panitz wrote to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which was created by the

Superfund. This agency was tasked with the mission “to investigate environmental exposures to hazardous

substances in communities and take action to reduce harmful exposures and their health consequences.”

Panitz went on to state that in her professional opinion, the case presents “disturbing evidence” that radiation

may be causing cancers surrounding the IEL site with routes of exposure including ingestion, skin absorption

and inhalation. Panitz followed by definitively diagnosing Beltz’s cause of death as having been “caused by

radiation exposure through groundwater contamination.”

Borello says that Panitz also personally conveyed to her a disturbing opinion: “There were rings and rings of

radiation-induced deaths around the landfill.” This observation further drove Borello’s pursuit of the truth.

The EPA tasked the environmental engineering firm PRC/Tetra Tech (Planning Research Corporation, a company acquired by Tetra Tech) at the end of 1989 to oversee removal of barrels of waste generated by the

remedial investigation and then to start sampling groundwater at the IEL in 1990. The EPA referred the company’s lab analyses to ATSDR. These analyses were only based on PRC/Tetra Tech’s occasional sampling of just nine residential wells over a period of four years, from 1990 to 1993.

ATSDR rejected the survey’s suggestion of a “cancer cluster” around the IEL, but the PRPs still settled with the Beltz family for an undisclosed sum in 1994. The family of another cancer patient, Cheryl Clark, also settled privately in 1995 but the terms were sealed by the court.


VIDEO CAPTION: Uniontown, Ohio, landfill news clip #24

Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, a scientist hired as an adviser to Uniontown’s residents, was highly skeptical of the

agency’s conclusions. He pointed out that an Ohio EPA test of a monitored well had revealed radiation levels

140 times the naturally occurring rate. He also told local media: “Once ATSDR comes in they’ll say there is no connection. I can guarantee they will whitewash the whole thing. That’s the natural progression wherever there are [cancer] clusters. ATSDR comes in and says everything is OK.”

Years later, a congressional report ripped ATSDR as an agency that “often obscures or overlooks potential health hazards, uses inadequate analysis, and fails to zero in on toxic culprits ... time and time again ATSDR appears to avoid clearly and directly confronting the most obvious toxic culprits that harm the health of local communities throughout the nation.”

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