- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

Technicians hired by the Environmental Protection Agency thoroughly tested the air inside the Hart Senate Office Building after it was fumigated and found no lingering traces of dangerous chemicals, a spokesman for the agency said yesterday.
The statement came after Robert J. Martin, the EPA's national ombudsman, said he would start an investigation into the experimental chlorine dioxide fumigation technique used to kill anthrax in the Hart building, which was closed down Oct. 17 after an anthrax-tainted letter was opened in the building.
Mr. Martin, pressed by reports that the Senate Finance Committee is investigating why it cost the EPA more than $14 million to rid the building of anthrax, said the cleanup could have been accomplished for less money using safer, nonchemical treatments.
"It is expected that chlorine dioxide and hydrochloric acid, as well as other potential contaminants … , could be in the air for a significant period of time … pos[ing] a potential serious health risk," he said in a memo that requests agency heads provide an explanation by today.
Joe Martyak, a spokesman for EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, told The Washington Times that Mr. Martin's investigation is "yet another example of the ombudsman's not using facts in his allegations."
"After the fumigation was complete, we went numerous times all throughout the Hart building with an instrument that measured for .1 parts per million of chlorine dioxide and we didn't find it at all," Mr. Martyak said. "The standard accepted OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] standards for chlorine dioxide in the air is 100 parts per million eight hours a day for a lifetime."
But Mr. Martin was not satisfied. "If they've got the test data, then why haven't they faxed it to us?" his chief investigator, Hugh B. Kaufman asked in a telephone interview yesterday.
The ombudsman has "received two anonymous calls from people who say they work in the Hart building and feel sick because the air in the building doesn't smell right," he said.
Some agency officials suggested off the record that Mr. Martin's investigation is motivated by his frustration over Mrs. Whitman's moves to eliminate his job as an independent EPA watchdog.
In November, Mrs. Whitman announced the merging of the inspector general's office with the independent office of national ombudsman effectively a "death sentence" for the ombudsman, according to Mr. Martin's lawyers.
"I don't know what the issue is in the Hart building, but I know it's not chlorine dioxide," Mr. Martyak said.
That's ridiculous, Mr. Kaufman said. "Anytime you have large numbers of people being put at a health risk and there's no data to support any conclusion, it's the responsibility of the ombudsman to look at the issue," he said.
He added that five movers from Mrs. Whitman's office appeared yesterday at Mr. Martin's office, requesting he turn over all of his files.
In a letter to Mrs. Whitman posted yesterday afternoon, Mr. Kaufman cited a temporary restraining order issued to the EPA Jan. 11 by Judge Richard W. Roberts of D.C. District Court after Mr. Martin sued Mrs. Whitman to block her from eliminating his job. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 26. The attempted seizure of Mr. Martin's files was a "violation of Judge Roberts' order," Mr. Kaufman said.
Mr. Martin said earlier this month Mrs. Whitman began pushing to dissolve his position after he exposed a financial conflict of interest between her husband and polluters at a cleanup site in Colorado. John Whitman is the managing partner of a firm controlled by Citicorp, a subsidiary of Citigroup, which is responsible for the purportedly botched cleanup of the site in Colorado. Additionally, Citigroup stocks valued between $100,000 and $250,000 are listed in Mrs. Whitman's financial-disclosure statement, according to a spokesman for the Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group.
Mrs. Whitman previously denied the apparent conflict of interest.

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