Whistleblower Discloses Hazardous Conditions at GSA Property
For three years, repeated tests at the Goodfellow Federal Center in St. Louis, Missouri revealed that the building had traces of dozens of hazardous substances that could damage the health of those in contact with the building. A whistleblower disclosure to the Office of Special Council now contends that the General Services Administration (GSA) failed to adequately protect and notify employees of these hazards despite years of knowledge.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) sent a disclosure letter to Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO) outlining repeated investigations into the Goodfellow facility health standards that notified GSA about hazardous conditions, including a 2016 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation and a 2018 Office of Inspector General investigation.
Investigations revealed 83 hazardous substances in the building and while subsequent air testing has shown no lead or asbestos in the air, testing has not been done on the remaining 81 identified hazardous substances.
According to the letter, GSA “misrepresented” the dangers posed to employees.
The letter writes, “GSA took away each employee’s right to protect his or her health by ensuring they were not informed of the contamination in the work space. Those hazards have not been eliminated! Employees are still asked to believe GSA is properly managing the contaminations when they have been chided by their own Inspector General three times in the past nine years for not having an environmental program that protects the safety of their tenants.”
In 2016, GSA conducted their own analysis of the building. The Public Building Service (PBS) spent over $1.9 million in environmental sampling and analysis at Goodfellow. However, a March 2019 OIG report blasted the GSA PBS for their improper analysis of the situation.
“Although these studies identified the presence of numerous environmental hazards at the complex, including lead, asbestos, and other known cancer-causing agents, PBS failed to comprehensively address the deficiencies and the complex’s occupants of the existing conditions,” the report said.
“PBS’s approach of conducting duplicative studies instead of taking action to remediate the hazardous contamination or prevent access to contaminated areas endangered the health of people at the complex and wasted taxpayer money. Furthermore, the deficiencies in PBS’s approach to these studies and violations resulted from its lack of effective environmental programs and policies to ensure compliance with environmental regulatory requirements at both the regional and national levels.”
A response to the report from PBS Commissioner Daniel Matthews agreed with the recommendations, and noted that the agency had developed an online reading room for such reports, created a site-specific safety plan for Goodfellow and implemented controls that prevented employees from entering hazardous portions of the facility, according to Federal Times.
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