Dr. David Lewis is published again in The Oconee Enterprise. In the article below, he discusses the conflict of interest associated with regulatory agencies like the EPA when they are entrusted with the task of monitoring themselves.
The Oconee Enterprise, August 27, 2015:
Who regulates EPA’s pollution?
The recent blowout at an abandoned gold mine triggered by EPA inspectors in Colorado released millions of gallons of wastes containing lead and arsenic. The pollutants discharged into a creek that joins the Animas River and empties into Lake Powell. Internal records from a private contractor show EPA ignored warnings about the impending disaster. Although EPA claims the spill poses no significant threat, my review of its data suggests otherwise.
As a former senior-level scientist at EPA, I’ve seen this happen again and again. EPA goes after small businesses for minor infractions, while covering up its own mistakes that are far more serious. Most recently, I’ve been dealing with this problem at an old abandoned cotton mill in Greensboro, Georgia.
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Data collected by an EPA-funded private contractor reveal that dangerous levels of thirty EPA-listed priority pollutants are buried at the site. They include benzo-a-pyrene, lead, arsenic and other toxic chemicals and heavy metals that can cause cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders.
As an expert witness in a lawsuit against the developer and the City of Greensboro, I testified that a redevelopment plan approved under EPA’s Brownfield Program will flush the hazardous wastes into a nearby creek. Eventually, they will settle out in Lake Oconee and become biomagnified up the food chain, potentially reaching levels millions of times higher in wildlife and humans.
My fears were confirmed in March when workers digging at the site ruptured a city water main, washing large amounts of contaminated soils directly into the creek. Sediment tests showed that lead levels, which were negligible in 2010, had increased a thousand-fold or more. I sent photographs of the excavated soil and broken water main to EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney, and asked for technical support from EPA’s regional lab in Athens.
When news of the EPA spill in Colorado broke, Fox News and other media outlets covered similar problems I found with the project in Greensboro, which may be a common occurrence at EPA-funded brownfield sites. Despite knowing defendants paid a large sum of money to settle the lawsuit after I testified, Toney’s office bluffed reporters, saying my allegations about the project polluting the creek in Greensboro were proven wrong in the court case.
This week, EPA’s new Clean Water Rule goes into effect. Unless Congress and federal courts intervene, EPA will start going after businesses and even homeowners if they so much as allow silt to enter ditches, creeks and other pathways feeding into “Waters of the United States.” It opens the door for the federal government, which has a history of using the IRS to target private citizens for political gain, to add EPA to its toolbox. But, as the EPA gains more power over us, who will regulate its pollution?
David Lewis, Ph.D.
Former U.S. EPA Research Microbiologist
David Lewis is an internationally recognized research microbiologist whose work on public health and environmental issues, as a senior-level Research Microbiologist in EPA’s Office of Research & Development and member of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Georgia, has been reported in numerous news articles and documentaries from TIME magazine and Reader’s Digest to National Geographic.