04/15/10
Scott Dye

KC Weapons Plant Health Threats Exposed
by Scott Dye

It has been well known since 2001 that the Bannister Federal Complex is a festering hellhole of dangerous leaching toxins, sitting smack dab in the middle of a predominantly poor African-American neighborhood in Kansas City. Among several federal facilities onsite is the Kansas City Plant (KCP) – the source of the problems – that makes triggers for nuclear weapons, under current contract by Honeywell for the US Dept of Energy.

But, we’d just never been able to break open the whole ugly story. However, working with allies Nuclear Watch, NRDC, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Peaceworks of KC et al, and some great KC reporters, we’ve blown the story wide open, beginning last December.

In order, it has been revealed that:

  • There are hundreds of dead and sick former and current workers at the plant with thousands of outstanding health hazard claims
  • A state government worker leaked documents expressing concerns about the health impacts to children at the facility’s Day Care for workers’ children
  • EPA joins the state’s investigation, and releases the list of 785 known toxins used at the KCP
  • GSA exposed for covering up known cancer and other health concerns
  • MO Senator Bond, R-Mo, takes the US Senate floor to say that the GSA has “apparently been unresponsive to the ongoing health concerns of their employees and tenants at the Bannister Federal Complex” and calling for a full investigation by GSA’s Inspector General
  • GSA clams up, ‘no further comment’
  • GSA ‘accidentally destroys’ two samples from their Day Care investigation before the samples could be analyzed
  • The allegedly ‘non-radioactive’ KCP has been using massive quantities (tons) of depleted uranium more-on-than-off since 1959
  • GSA’s Inspector General launches its ‘formal probe’ into workers’ health concerns
  • CDC (US Centers for Disease Control) launches its own independent federal investigation of health hazards at the KCP
  • A 1989 spill of Promethium 147 is confirmed to have exposed several workers and their homes/families to radioactive poisoning
  • US Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. join Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., in the call for full investigations into deaths and illnesses of former and current workers at the Bannister Federal Complex
  • Last week, we exposed that there are 15 locations at the KCP in the Superfund database, first designated in 1987, but the “government forgot to tell anybody in Kansas City”—one is a “Classified Burial Trench.”

Reporter Russ Ptacek of local NBC Action News has run two dozen features at:
http://www.nbcactionnews.com/content/investigative/bannister/default.aspx

Nadia Pflaum at The Pitch, the city’s weekly alternative paper, has done a great job of poignantly covering the suffering of the workers. Example at:
http://www.pitch.com/2009-11-19/news/honeywell-workers-exposed-to-beryllium-now-face-berylliosis-and-cancer

Search Dillon at www.kansascity.com to see the KC Star’s Karen Dillon’s reporting.

The transcript of the latest TV feature is pasted below, because the reporter let me have some fun with my quotes, and for the impressive list at the end, of the 785 “known” toxins used at the KCP.

From the story:

‘Former workers and environmental activists say they had no idea the Bannister Federal Complex, 1500 E. Bannister Road, is listed as a Superfund site with the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I guess the government forgot to tell anybody in Kansas City,” said Scott Dye with the Sierra Club. “It's not on any Superfund list that I've seen.”

“It's confusing that over the years that if they've even considered that, that they wouldn't tell the people that were working there,” said former weapons plant worker Maurice Copeland. “No, I never heard it.”

An NBC Action News investigation has uncovered a list of about a hundred dead and sick workers from the General Service Administration side of the facility and about 1500 claims of toxin related illnesses on the weapons side of the plant, according to a government report.

Dye said even EPA representatives at a recent public meeting on contamination at the Bannister plant were confused.

“When I pinned down (the EPA official) at the meeting, she tried to deny it, but wilted when I produced the EPA Superfund letter,” Dye said. “She relented and said she would get me the exact date the Bannister Federal Complex was designated. It took two more whacks upside the head, but the cat is out of the bag now.”

Dye said it took a week before the EPA confirmed the plants Superfund status by e-mail.

“The entire complex was designated and listed in the Superfund database in portions, all in 1987,” Dye said. “By scoring it low in the Hazard Ranking System, that’s a sick joke, literally, they were able to keep it off the National Priority List and deal with it quietly.

According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources the soil and ground water at the site are contaminated with solvents, metals and petroleum contaminants.’

Scott Dye is the Director of the Sierra Club National Water Sentinels Program, based in Columbia, Missouri

If you are concened about this issue, please contact Senators Bond and McCaskill and Representative Cleaver, and let them know that you support a reassessment of the Bannister Federal Complex. You can contact Scott Dye by writing to him at scott.dye@sierraclub.org or calling 573-874-5024