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The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today alerted the President and Congress that the General Services Administration (GSA) placed employees and children at risk by failing to address widespread, longstanding contamination at the Goodfellow Federal Center (Goodfellow) in St. Louis, Missouri, including asbestos, lead, mercury, radon, arsenic, and other toxic material.
After OSC referred allegations by an anonymous whistleblower to the head of GSA, the agency's investigation substantiated that officials had been aware of environmental contamination but failed to appropriately notify GSA employees or tenant agencies. The report describes GSA officials as being “overtly misleading" by ignoring experts and downplaying risks. The report found that officials made no effort to restrict access to contaminated areas and did not promptly or effectively implement mitigation recommendations prior to 2016. Officials also failed to assess the risk to children from potential exposure in the childcare center.
Despite these findings, the agency determined that it lacked evidence to recommend disciplinary action for specific individuals and focused its recommendations on ensuring current staff have the resources and responsibility to mitigate future hazards. Those recommendations included development of a training course for all employees in facilities management and performance plans regarding proper abatement of hazards. In addition, the agency stated that it is in the process of closing the Goodfellow facility and expects to relocate most tenants by the end of 2022.
“I would like to thank the whistleblower for their courage in revealing widespread environmental contamination and years of exposure to hazardous materials," said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner. “Officials had been aware of these conditions but downplayed the risk, discounting expert guidance and advice, rather than taking appropriate corrective action. While I applaud the agency's actions to close the Goodfellow complex, I strongly encourage the agency to ensure that employees, tenants, and contractors receive appropriate medical screening and care."