It seems that deleted emails have been a problem for a lot of folks this year. In the town of Goshen, Indiana, residents of a particular neighborhood say the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) is hiding details in an asbestos cover up by blacking out portions of emails that may indicate that state government knew about the problem.
Television station WTHR 13’s investigative crew has uncovered what they refer to as a “disturbing trend towards government secrecy in Indiana.” This case involves huge piles of asbestos-containing debris – some seven-thousand tons in all – being left out in the open, exposed to high winds, and scattering toxic dust all over homes, schools, and businesses in the area.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says all of this happened under the watch of IDEM and blames the fiasco on them. They also claim that a 20-year management employee with IDEM missed the problem all together.
The question is, however, did he really “miss it” or did he ignore it?
Investigators for WTHR claim they have evidence of the latter, contained in 28 emails that IDEM turned over to the state as part of a subpoena in regards to the asbestos debacle.
However, these emails were redacted. In some cases; names were blacked out as were certain words within the emails. IDEM, however, claims they did nothing wrong, citing “deliberative-process privilege”, which would allow them to take such actions. They won’t provide the complete emails.
Now, the homeowners in the neighborhood in question are taking the state to court, alleging that IDEM’s negligence exposed thousands to asbestos, including students at a very busy, crowded high school where outdoor activity is the norm.
The attorney for the neighbors claims that the deliberative-process privilege does not extend to state agencies and is only applicable to federal agencies.
Attorney Bill Groth, who’s not part of the asbestos case, thinks the state is “retreating from the notion of transparency.”
He should know. He’s been trying to force Vice President-Elect and current Indiana governor, Mike Pence, to turn over some emails he’s requested…in their un-redacted state. He has yet to succeed.
In the meantime, residents of Goshen continue to worry about their health. They’re asking a federal judge to force IDEM officials to “come clean” in regards to the massive piles at the old Johnson Controls site.
Johnson Controls makes batteries and other automotive parts as well as parts for HVAC equipment. The use of asbestos-containing products at the site in question was abundant in years past.
Furthermore, homeowners are asking why an ex-convict, who spent 18 years in prison for asbestos infractions, was charged with the task of tearing down the building without first removing the toxic materials.
Also, an IDEM inspector on the case issued two reports that claimed “no asbestos violations” yet emails he wrote indicated otherwise. It’s difficult to ascertain how he missed 7,000 tons of it, literally sitting there in front of him.
Cover-ups aren’t anything new in the war against asbestos. Company executives have been doing that for decades. As far back as the 1920s, company doctors were warning management that asbestos use was dangerous, yet those in commanding positions continued its use in the hopes of saving money.
Unsuspecting workers were never warned that they may eventually die a horrible death as a result of asbestos-caused cancer.
Seems some things never change.