'Deplorable' Conditions Cited at EPA Warehouse in Maryland

Amy Harder

Employees at an Environmental Protection Agency warehouse in Landover, Md., worked out in a makeshift gym while conditions inside the facility “were rotting and becoming potentially hazardous,” according to an EPA inspector general report issued on Monday.

“Deplorable conditions existed in the warehouse,” the report by Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. states. “Door jambs were corroded; dirt, dust and vermin feces were pervasive; and several items were rotting and potentially hazardous.”

The report found that the 70,000-square-foot warehouse—one of EPA’s largest—was storing large amounts of expensive, unused equipment, ranging from computers to pianos. It also found numerous security and safety issues.

“Personally identifiable information and agency sensitive files—such as passports and legal files—were located in unsecured open boxes throughout the warehouse,” the report states. “There was a locked office inside the facility for which we could not determine a purpose.”

Employees had created hideaways arranged to be out of the sight of security cameras, the report said. “The warehouse contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces created by and for the workers that included televisions, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and couches,” the IG report said. “These spaces contained personal items, including photos, pin ups, calendars, clothing, books, magazines and videos.”

They also created a makeshift gym spanning an area larger than 30 feet by 45 feet. While exercising, employees apparently listened to music and used EPA steno pads to record workouts, according to the report.

“These conditions raise questions about time charges made by warehouse employees under the contract,” the report states. No explanation was offered for the pianos, of which there were three, according to photos released as part of the report.

EPA leases the warehouse for $750,000 a year under a contract that began in 2007.

“Our initial research at EPA’s Landover warehouse raised significant concerns with the lack of agency oversight of personal property and warehouses space at the facility,” Elkins said in a May 31 memorandum to Craig Hooks, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management.

The report also includes a five-page letter to Elkins dated May 23 by acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe detailing the action EPA has already taken in the wake of two briefings Perciasepe has had on May 15 and 16 on this matter.

“The EPA is committed to addressing the previous conditions at the warehouse and implementing institutional protections to ensure those conditions do not recur at this facility or any other used by the agency,” Perciasepe said in the letter.

According to Perciasepe’s letter, EPA officials took immediate action on May 17 by visiting the facility and escorting off the premises the employees and issued a stop-work order to Apex Logistics, the company EPA had contracted for the warehouse employment. This was the only contract EPA had with Apex, according to the letter. EPA officials continued its response to the situation throughout the weekend of May 18-19 and into the next week. Perciasepe conducted a meeting on May 21 where he directed officials to evaluate conditions at all warehouses and storage facilities used by EPA.