Longform

Board Games

Page 5 of 7

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.)

From time to time, Assistant City Attorney Sullivan reported to his colleagues what Anderson was saying at various public forums. In an October 19, 1999, memo, he wrote: "Having been unsuccessful by alleging significant plutonium contamination at Lowry, Adrienne Anderson has broadened her alleged concerns to include all radionuclides. At least this appeared to be the thrust of her testimony at the [EPA] ombudsman's hearing on Saturday. It may be wise to hire a radiation expert separate from Parsons to ensure we have the best analysis available to answer any questions that may be raised. Ms. Anderson has made the Lowry site her pet project, and she will continue to raise new questions unless we can respond authoritatively. You may recall that she started by alleging Section 6 was the site of Army chemical weapons training or storage during World War II (she had the wrong section and probably the wrong operation), then she alleged plutonium contamination (no evidence), and now she is alleging shipment of radium and depleted uranium waste by Shattuck."


Rather than do the "best analysis available," however, Lowry officials didn't even bother to resample any of the wells that had turned up hot. A database maintained by the City of Denver shows that with the exception of one shallow well, no sampling whatsoever was done for plutonium or americium during a seven-year stretch, from roughly 1991 to 1998. "It wasn't required by the EPA," explains Dennis Bollmann, who supervises the city's activities at the landfill.

During this period, workers were quietly plugging dozens of monitoring wells, including many that had registered high readings for plutonium and americium, records show. Federal and city officials say the wells were plugged to ensure the integrity of the landfill cap and to increase the efficiency of a gas-extraction system. But the plugging also prevented any additional sampling in those disputed wells.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Eileen Welsome

Latest Stories