Board Games

When a boardmember refused to go with the flow, Metro's plan to handle Lowry wastewater got down and dirty.

Anderson intensified her research, filing numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the EPA. During this process, she says, documents that had previously been available publicly were restamped as "privileged." Among the documents that appear to have been reclassified is a letter from John Haggard, then the EPA's project manager at Lowry, describing allegations of illegal dumping made by former state patrolman Bill Wilson, as well as lab analyses performed for the EPA showing plutonium contamination at the landfill.

Jessie Goldfarb, an EPA attorney who often handles FOIA matters, says she doesn't know anything about any document reclassifications. "I've never done that," she adds, "and I know of no one else who would have done such a thing."

But Westword has obtained documents through its own public-records requests filed with the EPA and the City of Denver which show that the EPA has been unwilling to turn over public information regarding Lowry. These records also show that the EPA has occasionally consulted with the city about whether documents should be made public.

Michael Hogue
Practice what you teach: Adrienne Anderson leads an environmental-studies class at the University of Colorado.
Anthony Camera
Practice what you teach: Adrienne Anderson leads an environmental-studies class at the University of Colorado.

Details

Read more Westword coverage of the Lowry Landfill

For example, Anderson had filed a FOIA request for a letter from the Department of Justice's David Dain, in which he advised city officials that they were breaking off settlement negotiations. Goldfarb subsequently faxed the letter to Assistant City Attorney Shaun Sullivan, who sent a memo to Ed Demos, Dennis Bollmann and Theresa Donahue, three Denver officials intimately familiar with Lowry:

"The EPA has received a FOIA request for the attached letter from the DOJ to us. EPA does not want to give it to AA [Adrienne Anderson]. Unfortunately, there is no express exception to FOIA for this purpose so EPA must rely on the need to protect the public interest (presumably in frank, open settlement discussions). Jessie Goldfarb has asked our view on disclosure/non-disclosure. Could you call me so we can discuss this matter?"

Goldfarb says she had an obligation to consult with the city because the letter contained confidential settlement information. "We couldn't release it without the city's consent," she adds. And apparently the city opposed the letter's release, because Anderson says she never received a copy of it.

But the EPA was trying to keep a lid on Lowry long before Anderson was appointed to the Metro board. In one document dated March 12, 1990, EPA officials discussed how to handle inquiries from Bryan Abas, then a reporter for Westword. "I expect there will be a Westword piece in the near future, and we will need to react with the 'facts,'" Haggard wrote in a letter to his supervisor, Barry Levene. "Lowry has been the only major project (Superfund) in the Front Range that has been relatively quiet, and you may want to consider activities to coalesce all the interested parties at Lowry so that it remains fairly quiet."

EPA and Metro officials routinely contacted networks and newspapers to complain about Lowry coverage; these letters were then circulated by e-mail or regular mail to their counterparts in Denver and at Waste Management. No news agency was too large -- or too small.

Jillian Lloyd, a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, spent nearly a year investigating Lowry before writing her exhaustive 1998 piece, "A Trooper, A Dump, and A Tale of Doubt." After its publication, Metro manager Hite wrote a lengthy letter to Lloyd's supervisor, claiming the article was "totally biased and unsubstantiated."

"The arguments parrot those of a dissident Metro Wastewater Reclamation District Board member who is routinely ignored by Denver's two dailies, The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, and by her fellow Board members," Hite continued, referring to Anderson. "Yet you quote her as though she is a respected authority."

William Yellowtail, director of the EPA's Region VIII, which includes Colorado, wrote a lengthy letter to an Erie resident in 1997, rebutting three stories published by the Boulder Weekly. "These articles contain much misinformation about the EPA's cleanup proposal for groundwater at the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site," he began. And Jack McGraw, another high-ranking EPA official, sent a similar letter to a citizen in Milwaukee in response to another critical article that appeared in In These Times.

In spring 1997, Metro officials threatened to censure Anderson for speaking out at a Lowry hearing; in response, she filed a whistleblower suit that May. After several hearings and appeals, a federal judge is expected to rule on the case sometime in June.

Anderson was often the subject of e-mails and memos that flew back and forth between the public agencies. One of the most frequent writers was Metro's Frank, who had formerly worked as a public-relations officer for aerospace giants Lockheed and Martin Marietta, which have since merged to become Lockheed-Martin.

Martin Marietta was the company that Anderson and others alleged had dumped toxic chemicals into water that was then piped to the Friendly Hills neighborhood and other south and southwest suburban communities. Although Frank was knowledgeable about the Friendly Hills case, he testified that he wasn't directly involved in it. Referring to Anderson in one e-mail, Frank wrote: "I am greatly bothered that she is able to publish this garbage from a University of Colorado e-mail address, which I help fund via my taxes. However, c'est la vie." (Frank used a taxpayer-funded computer to send his message.)

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