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Sullivan to bring complaints to EPA

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| March 10, 2009 12:00 AM

A former longtime Community Advisory Group member plans to file a complaint later this month with the Environmental Protection Agency’s general accounting office division of fraud, waste and abuse, accusing the agency of six acts of misconduct.

Gordon Sullivan presented a summary of his complaints to county commissioners last week and the Libby City Council on Monday, stating that the EPA should investigate Section 8’s handling of Libby’s asbestos Superfund site.

“I believe these six allegations are firmly supported with evidence,” Sullivan said at Monday’s city council meeting.

Sullivan took a straight-to-the-point approach, numbering off complaints as he introduced them. He mentioned that four months of preparatory work went into creating the documents that he plans to file, but that his years of researching the topic and interacting with the EPA has given him the technical knowledge.   

The allegations fell under the idea that the EPA is not performing a thorough cleanup because it doesn’t want to invest the necessary time or money.

Libby’s Team Leader Victor Ketellapper, headquartered at EPA’s Section 8 Denver offices, could not immediately be reached for a response.

EPA attorney Andy Lensink, also in Denver, and Mike Cirian, Libby’s on-site project manager, both stated that it’s within Sullivan’s rights as a citizen to file a complaint. But regarding the specifics of the allegations, they had little to say.

“I can’t go into the specifics of the issues Mr. Sullivan raised,” Lensink said. “We will respond to them at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum.”

Sullivan said at the council meeting that in the end local government and Libby residents would be liable for hazardous waste that the EPA leaves behind.  

He pointed out that the EPA considers a house “clean” as long as asbestos-contaminated vermiculite insulation is “contained.” Eventually, he said, a homeowner will have to pay for its removal.

“Houses either burn down, fall down themselves or are bulldozed,” Sullivan said at the meeting, claiming that it would end up costing a homeowner $9,000-$14,000 to remove the asbestos.

Sullivan was not looking for endorsements from county commissioners or the city council, but was impressed by what he perceived as a positive response.

“The two presentations were for information only in an effort to be transparent in this whole process,” Sullivan said, “but I was very surprised at the support of the commissioners and the council.”

Councilmember and longtime CAG member D.C. Orr spoke after Sullivan’s presentation.

“If they (EPA) don’t do their job,” Orr said, “we’re the ones that are hung out to dry for this.”

Mayor Doug Roll hesitates to give blanket support to Sullivan since he has not yet seen the complaint document, but Roll agrees with what was presented at the meeting.

“I know there were a lot of promises made by the EPA that weren’t kept,” Roll said. “Much of what he (Sullivan) had to say, I think the city supports. I can’t speak for the whole council, but I support it.”

County Commissioner Tony Berget did not voice direct support, but mentioned, “I think we have similar frustrations with the EPA – the county does – all of us do.”