Radioactive Waste Dangers Surface Again in Saint Louis

KSDK-TV’s Leisa Zigman shared a series of investigative reports this week about cancer clusters many believe stem from piles of radioactive waste being dumped in the St. Louis area decades ago.

Zigman’s first report for the NBC affiliate (above) highlighted a cancer cluster map of St. Louis and spotlighted dumping near St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport and toxic runoff into nearby Coldwater Creek.

Her second report (below) focused on the Westlake Landfill, where a reported 8,000 tons of radioactive waste was allowed to be dumped in a flood plain, close to public water sources and without any barriers or other protective measures installed.

Zigman’s reports dovetail nicely with an exclusive story I broke 54 weeks ago about a controversial report about cancer rates among people living in the vicinity of the Department of Energy’s Weldon Spring Site in St. Charles County, Mo.  The site had been placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List in 1987 because of the potential for groundwater contamination to adversely affect a drinking water well field less than a mile away that served 60,000 users in the area.

Uphill Battle

Click to read reports in my series, “Uphill Battle for Answers.”

Likewise, her reports complement the handful of follow-up efforts I’ve shared in my series, Uphill Battle for Answers.

Among my reports, I predicted that radiation exposure-related lawsuits were on the horizon after attending a meeting in St. Louis during which a gaggle of New York City personal-injury lawyers were hunting for potential clients.

In addition, I reported on how I had reached the conclusion that several Missouri state legislators seemed less interested in cancer dangers affecting people in their districts than they were in passing measures having to do with jumping jacks and butterflies.

Finally, after investigating similarities between the Weldon Spring Site and a “sister” site in Ohio, I used a headline to ask the question, Do Residents Living Near Weldon Spring Site Deserve Compensation for Radiation Exposure?

Now that KSDK-TV has entered the fray by reporting on this topic, I expect more questions — and more reports — will follow.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE 2/7/2013 at 8:38 p.m. Central:  Apparently, a handful of Missouri state legislators — including one mentioned in my post March 26, 2012 — paid attention to the KSDK-TV report and decided to unveil some of what Culture Vigilante Lisa Payne-Naeger calls “Yankee Doodle Legislation” requesting the U.S. Congress transfer authority for the remediation of the West Lake Landfill from the EPA to the Corps of Engineers’ FUSRAP project with the urgent, related request that the wastes be excavated from the Missouri River flood plain and be transported to a licensed radioactive waste facility, away from water and away from people.  It’s a start, I guess.

"Three Days In August" Promotional PhotoBob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is coming soon was released May 2013.

KSDK-TV to Highlight Radiation Dangers in St Louis Area

Uphill BattleNEWS ALERT:  Barely one year after I scooped the local news media with my 2012 report, Missouri Health Agency Officials Refuse to Answer Questions About New Weldon Spring Cancer Report, I’ve learned KSDK-TV will broadcast an investigative report on the alleged impact radioactive waste sites are having on people’s health in the St. Louis area.

According to a promotional spot I watched on the NBC affiliate, investigative reporter Leisa Zigman’s first report on the topic is scheduled to air Thursday.

If you’re interested in this topic, I encourage you to read the reports in my series, Uphill Battle for Answers, and then let your elected officials know you want answers — especially if you live in an area close to one of the St. Louis area sites where radiation hazards exist.

"Three Days In August" Promotional PhotoBob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is coming soon was released May 2013.

Do Residents Living Near Weldon Spring Site Deserve Compensation for Radiation Exposure?

Do residents living in neighborhoods near a former EPA Superfund site 30 miles west of St. Louis deserve compensation for being exposed to radioactive materials?  The answer to that question could very well be “Yes.”

Click image to read related stories.

Located adjacent State Highway 94 in a once-rural section of St. Charles County, Mo., the Weldon Spring (Mo.) Site was contaminated during the production of 2, 4, 6 – trinitrotoluene (TNT) and 2, 4 and 2,6 Dinitrotoluene (DNT) by the U.S. Department of Army from 1941 to 1945.  It was the enrichment of uranium ore and thorium processing that took place from 1958 to 1966, however, that resulted in workers at the Atomic Energy Commission site being exposed to dangerously-high levels of radiation.  In 1987, the site made the list of the EPA’s most-hazardous properties.  NOTE:  More details about the site’s history, according to the DOE, can be found here.

The Weldon Spring Site has a lot in common with other trouble-filled sites under the purview of the federal government — in this case, the U.S. Department of Energy.  One is the Fernald Site 22 miles north of Cincinnati.

Though it operated on a smaller scale than its Show-Me State sister site, workers there are said to have performed largely the same tasks and, on occasion, handled overflow from Weldon Spring.

According to a report in The New York Times, those same workers were parties to a 1994 settlement with DOE that guarantees them lifetime benefits expected to cost the federal government at least $20 million.  Similarly, according to a news release April 4, workers at the Missouri site were parties to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor that has paid them more than $39 million in compensation to date.

When one compares how residents living near the two sites have fared, one finds Ohioans better off — at least financially — than their neighbors almost 400 miles to the west.

This sign greets visitors as they enter the complex surrounding the “rock pile” at the Weldon Spring Site.

In 1989, according to the same Times article, some 14,000 residents living near the Fernald Site reached a $78 million settlement with DOE.  Conversely, no lawsuits have been filed and no settlements have been reached on behalf of any of the tens of thousands of residents living near the Missouri site.

Though officials with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have, for more than three months, refused to answer questions about their controversial 2011 Weldon Spring Cancer Report and have done virtually nothing to inform the media or the public — not even the people living in five zip codes where leukemia and leukemia death rates were studied — about the findings of their report, I suspect personal-injury lawyers will find at least two statements in the report too tempting to pass up.

The first statement (below) echoes bureaucratic doublespeak:

Based on updated data from the 5-zip code area, the total number of leukemia deaths and the total number of leukemia deaths in those age 65 and older appears to be significantly higher than expected (Table 4 updated) but the actual leukemia death rates in the 5-zip code area were not significantly different from the statewide leukemia death rates (Table B).

The second statement (below) appears a short while later in the report and leaves one feeling perplexed:

Based on this analysis, we have concluded that there is no increased environmental risk of developing leukemia in the five ZIP-code area during 1996-2004 over that of the entire state.

Sadly, four out of five dentists who chew gum Missouri state legislators I contacted about the report seem inclined to ignore it completely, to discount it’s findings, to procrastinate about it and/or to simply shoot the messenger — me! — delivering questions about it.  Regardless of their predictable election-year reactions, the controversy is not likely to go away.

As I reported in an update following my attendance — as an observer, not a prospective client — at a litigant-recruitment meeting in St. Louis two months ago, the same group of New York City-based lawyers who represented first responders after 9/11 has already filed one lawsuit related to radiation exposure in the Coldwater Creek area of St. Louis.  In addition, they’ve dropped some super-sized hints about the possibility of even more lawsuits — perhaps involving residents living near the Weldon Spring Site!

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that those attorneys are holding their second Coldwater Creek “rainmaking session” Wednesday at 6 p.m. Central at the Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel.  The graphic at right holds the details.

CRASS COMMERCIAL MESSAGE:  Order a copy of my book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.

EPA Regulatory Outreach Going Too Far

If the Environmental Protection Agency succeeds in advancing new ozone standards, places like Yellowstone National Park — where naturally occurring ozone levels can exceed the standard — won’t be able to meet the new requirements.  And that’s not the half of it when it comes to EPA’s regulatory overreach!

Two recently-released studies show that the EPA’s proposed new ozone standard — which calls for tightening the allowable levels of ozone to as few as 60 parts per billion from its current 75 ppg – is full of flaws.

A study by NERA Economic Consulting shows the EPA’s health benefit assumptions associated with the proposed new requirements are greatly exaggerated:

EPA’s assumed causal relationship between ozone and mortality has not been supported by EPA’s science advisors;

The health benefits EPA attributes to the tighter ozone standard should are due to a slight reduction in particulate matter (dust), which already is regulated separately by EPA; and

The EPA’s own data show that the benefits of the proposed ozone standard will not outweigh the costs.

Another study by Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI estimates that strengthening the ozone standard to 60 ppb could cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion per year between 2020 and 2030, and destroy 7.3 million jobs.

If you think the EPA is going too far, CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., and demand they reign in the environmental activists at the EPA on this and other matters.  Millions of jobs are at stake!

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The EPA Contest Winner That Should Have Lost

One year ago, I published a post, Government Video Contest Invites Parody, about an EPA-sponsored contest which invited citizens to submit entries to a video contest under the theme, “RULEMAKING MATTERS.” One year later, I’ve decided to showcase the winning video and the video that should have won.

First, let’s review the invitation to participate in the contest that was showcased in a video that has been viewed more than 10,500 times — a low number in the YouTube scheme of things:

Next, I offer the yawner of a video that won the contest which earned its creator $2,500 in prize money and, according to YouTube, a whopping 1,364 times as of this morning — or $1.83 per view):

Finally, I offer the video produced by Reason.tv that should have won the contest due to the fact that it’s honest and has generated more than 17,100 views — that’s about 14 cents per view if it had one — at the time of this posting:

If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!

‘Gas Strike’ Fueled by Emotion and Ignorance (Update)

This morning, I came across a Facebook event, titled “GAS STRIKE,” that nearly a half-million people have signed up to “attend” today.  Sadly, their effort — which involves boycotting gas stations for one day — is a misguided effort driven more by emotion and ignorance than common sense.

Oil companies produce the oil and make it available on the marketplace, but the price is set by the markets in much the same way as farmers accept the going rate for commodities such as corn and soybeans.

Americans who want “change” in the form of lower gas prices at the pump should stop venting their outrage against oil companies and the small business owners who operate gas stations and convenience stores across the nation.  After all, it didn’t work when tried June 19.  Instead, they should demand President Barack Obama and his underlings — a group that includes Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Dr. David Chu and everyone in the EPA — end their war of regulation and red tape that is preventing U.S. oil and natural gas companies from tapping domestic sources of energy.

No one but the Obama Administration is responsible for gasoline prices reaching $4 per gallon and higher. If Obama wants to improve the everyday lives of Americans via lower fuel prices, he needs to conduct business in a way that allows more drilling onshore and offshore so that we can actually reduce our dependence on foreign oil and keep 9.2 million Americans gainfully employed and contributing to the economy.

To learn more about how gas prices are set, read The Facts about Rising Gas Prices, an Energy Tomorrow blog post published yesterday.

If you need help paying for gasoline until the Obama Administration ends its war against “Big Oil,” buy a “Will work for fuel” t-shirt.

UPDATE 3/10/11 at 12:28 p.m. Central: Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) makes my point in a just-released video (below).  He even mentions Obama’s statement about skyrocketing electricity prices, a topic I covered in this Nov. 3, 2008, post.

FYI: If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!

Company That Earned Millions from Gulf Cleanup Tangled in Suit That Could Cost Chevron $113B (Update)

What do the BP Deepwater Horizon “disaster” of 2010, the $113 billion lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have in common?  Stratus Consulting Inc. of Boulder, Colo., was involved in the first two and, possibly, the third.

BP DEEPWATER HORIZON

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over Gulf.

President Barack Obama talked as if he was ready to lock up “Big Oil” and throw away the key after a deadly explosion caused oil to begin leaking from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig April 20.  With help from his lapdogs in the state-run media, he made sure every American knew it would take decades for the Gulf’s delicate ecosystem to recover.

Nine months have passed since then, and some would argue that the only visible signs of the disaster that remain visible are dollar signs on the government’s accounting sheet.  As of Nov. 1, according to a Bloomberg report, the government has awarded $186.8 million in clean up-related contracts related to the oil spill.

The company listed in the report as having “received the second-largest amount of money from the contracts” awarded following the disaster is Stratus Consulting Inc. The company received $22.73 million — second only to Industrial Economics Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., which received $47.52 million.

CHEVRON-ECUADOR LAWSUIT

Not familiar with the case?  In short, the Amazon Defense Coalition, an Ecuador-based group led by New Yorker Steven R. Donziger, purports to represent the interests of some 30,000 Ecuadorans in a hotly-contested lawsuit against Chevron.  But not for what Chevron allegedly did.  It’s for the wrongs allegedly committed by Texaco years before Chevron purchased the company in 2001.

Estimates of possible settlement amounts began at $1 billion, increased to $27 billion, topped off at $113 billion and are likely headed back down.  Why?  In part, because of several factors — not the least of which is that Chevron appears on the verge of winning its case outright and could very possibly file counter suits against a number of parties involved in the litigation that’s dragged on for most of two decades.

Why is Chevron about to win?  Because the plaintiffs’ legal claim against Chevron seems to have crashed and burned.  Because their primary funding source, Philadelphia law firm Kohn & Swift, has dropped out of the picture.  And because attorneys working both sides of this case seem to be have shifted much of their attention to the involvement of Stratus Consulting.

At the heart of the matter involving Stratus Consulting is a “global report” presented to the Ecuadoran court as his own by Richard Cabrera, the man known as the “court-appointed independent expert.”  In short, both sides are arguing over the extent of the role the folks at Stratus Consulting played in crafting that report.

On May 24, 2010, Chevron attorneys in Ecuador filed a motion about the report which read, in part, as follows:

Article 117 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that only evidence that is duly processed in accordance with the law shall be valid in litigation. As I will prove below, the reports presented by the Court-appointed global expert Richard Stalin Cabrera Vega, P.E. are the product of fraud on the Court and illegal collusion between plaintiffs and Cabrera, and thus are invalid.

Just before midnight three days later, one of the best legal minds the plaintiffs could muster was burning the midnight oil inside the offices of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP at 75 Rockefeller Center in New York City.  In an e-mail to more than a dozen other attorneys — including Donziger — ECBA Law attorney Ilann M. Maazel shared a “Mini-revelation” which read, in part, as follows:

“Unless we want the Stratus/Cabrera revelation to come out in CO, which seems like the worst possible place, we need to make our submission in Ecuador and fast. Say, Tuesday. We’ve bought over a month in CO and everywhere else but time is almost certainly about to run out. So we need to make a decision whether we can file in Ecuador and control this story, or whether we let events overtake us in CO, as I think they will very shortly.”

Fast-forward seven months, and you’ll find the transcript of Special Master Max Gitter’s deposition of Donziger Dec. 29 in New York City contains salacious details about Stratus Consulting’s apparent involvement in the case.  Likewise, you’ll find the company mentioned in a Houston Chronicle article published New Years Eve.  Not the kind of publicity any company wants.

INTERIOR SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

Even before Deepwater Horizon, Secretary Salazar seemed intent on thwarting efforts by the oil and natural gas industry to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Same thing during the disaster.  Salazar was always on the scene, micromanaging efforts to paint the oil spill as the worst thing to ever happen in the Gulf.

After the disaster, he pushed more drilling bans, added more red tape and made life in general more difficult for people in the oil patch.

When it comes to the lawsuit Chevron’s been battling in Ecuador, it’s difficult for someone with few political sources in Colorado to find much evidence of Secretary Salazar’s involvement; therefore, I’ll leave it to others to try and unearth any ties between Salazar, the former U.S. senator from Colorado and the Boulder, Colo.-based Stratus Consulting.

I will, however, share what I found out about the company, using the search term, “Stratus Consulting,” in the Federal Procurement Data System.

The company has been awarded 942 government contracts since 1999.  Many, but not all, involved work for either the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the EPA or the Justice Department.  From 1999 to 2007, Stratus Consulting pulled in an average of 64 contracts per year.  From 2008 to 2010, the average per year nearly doubled — to 121 per year. So far, the company has generated only three contracts in 2011.

According to the Federal Elections Commission database, individuals from Stratus Consulting gave a combined $3,274 in federal campaign contributions to Democrat causes during the past decade.  The largest was ecotoxicologist Douglas Beltman’s $1,000 contribution (28992965004) to Obama for America Oct. 1, 2008.

It remains anyone’s guess as to exactly how this might turn out, but I suspect we haven’t heard the end of Stratus Consulting’s involvement in this monumental lawsuit.  Stay tuned!

FYI: If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!

UPDATE 1/26/11 at 5:09 p.m. Central: The San Francisco Sentinel is reporting an update on the case under the headline, Chevron Makes Public Ecuador Plaintiffs’ Email, Latin American Media Raises Questions About Alleged Fraud by Plaintiffs Against Chevron.  Big quote:  “Apart from bringing down the case, we could all end up in jail.”

UPDATE 1/27/11 at 5:30 p.m. Central: File this under “Dang it!”  I had many of the details of this huge story from an “insider” source, but couldn’t put all the pieces together before Forbes broke it today.  In short, it details how Donziger recruited J. Russell DeLeon, a founder of online-poker firm PartyGaming and a fellow Harvard Law School graduate, to invest at least $1.6 million in the case in exchange for as much as 6% of the anticipated fee, which would be 25%-30% of any settlement.  I’m told, however, that more news like this will surface soon, so stay tuned!

UPDATE 4/28/11 at 7:16 p.m. Central: I Scooped The New York Times by 100 Days!