At least three companies linked by the Environmental Protection Agency to hazardous waste sites are being paid by the government to clean up their own sites, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.
While the EPA did not make all of its procurement records available, the Center found that the agency awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin Corp., Halliburton Company and a subsidiary of Tyco International Ltd. to work on four Superfund sites where at least one company was involved as a "potentially responsible party," according to EPA documents.
The Center sent the firms copies of EPA documents showing the connections, and all three confirmed that each was possibly responsible for pollution at one site, and in one case at two sites. In all cases, other companies also are connected by the EPA to the sites as possible polluters.
The EPA said it is on the lookout for conflicts of interest. "As a regulatory agency, EPA has adopted a very strong position on conflicts of interest and monitors conflict issues both before and during contract performance and takes appropriate action as necessary," Jennifer Wood, an EPA spokeswoman, said in a written response to the Center.
Most regional EPA records not made availableBut environmental watchdogs say that this practice deserves more scrutiny. "It doesn't seem right to allow a company that polluted some site to then secure contracts that would earn them money from the taxpayers to clean up the same mess," said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a nonprofit public interest group.