The EPA's Denver office has an environmental problem of its own to clean up

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The mission of the United States Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. The agency oversees the cleanup of asbestos in buildings and chemicals in our soil or drinking water, for example. It provides grants to government agencies and companies that want to clean up landfills, restore wetlands and mitigate Superfund sites. And it makes sure that those agencies and companies do it right.

But the EPA's regional office in downtown Denver appears to have a foul-smelling environmental problem of its own, according to a June 25 story on GovernmentExecutive.com, a website that covers news for managers and executives working for the federal government.

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"Management for Region 8 in Denver, Colo., wrote an email earlier this year to all staff in the area pleading with them to stop inappropriate bathroom behavior, including defecating in the hallway," the story reads. "In the email...Deputy Regional Administrator Howard Cantor mentioned 'several incidents' in the building, including clogging the toilets with paper towels and 'an individual placing feces in the hallway' outside the restroom."

The story goes on to say that the EPA consulted with workplace-violence "national expert" John Nicoletti, who told the agency that the person who was responsible for this brownfield would "probably escalate" his or her actions.

Cantor told the staff that "management is taking this situation very seriously and will take whatever actions are necessary to identify and prosecute these individuals," according to the GovernmentExecutive story, adding that he asked employees to notify their supervisor if they had information about the incidents.

The EPA acknowledged the incidents and provided a statement to the website, saying it couldn't comment on ongoing personnel matters.

And the agency provided the following statement to Westword: "Mental illness and destructive behavior in the workplace are serious issues that all large organizations must periodically face. EPA's actions in response to incidents that occurred months ago have been deliberate and have focused on our responsibility to ensure a safe work environment for our employees.

"Our brief consultation with Dr. Nicoletti on this matter, a resource who regularly provides our office with training and expertise on workplace issues, reflects that responsibility."

In news that is perhaps related, the EPA this week asked Congress "to reduce administrative hurdles involved in firing unruly employees, who have plagued the agency in recent months," according to GovernmentExecutive.com.

"House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members pressed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at a hearing on why employees who spent hours each day looking at pornography continue to be on the government's payroll, and why an employee was able to get away with defrauding the agency for an extended period of time. McCarthy said she would 'welcome' measures to expedite the removal process." Know of another stinky story? Send tips to editorial@westword.com.

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