EPA removes expert who criticized
By CRAIG PITTMAN, Times Staff Writer
Records show the EPA official was taken off the
Richard Harvey was there in 1999 when federal officials
unveiled a plan for restoring the
The problem: He spoke up.
Documents obtained by the St. Petersburg Times show Harvey was removed this year after he expressed concerns about a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to solve Lake Okeechobee's pollution woes by funneling the pollution into Biscayne National Park.
Such punishments are having a chilling effect on other
government scientists who "are concerned about voicing too strong an
opinion," said Mark Perry, co-chair of the Everglades Coalition, an
alliance of 45 environmental groups. Squelching the scientists like
The others who have been booted - all state employees -
complained about funding problems, offered controversial research or suggested
the politicians in charge weren't listening to the scientists.
Because of the politics, anyone working for a government
agency engaged in the
It's too bad,
Harvey, who retained his job as the head of the EPA's
Funding has lagged
EPA regional administrator Jimmy Palmer, a Bush administration appointee who has made it a policy to defer to state officials, declined a request for an interview. A spokeswoman said he could not comment on "a personnel matter."
Plans for the
Federal funding has lagged, delaying construction of key
components and driving up the cost. The state's delay in cleaning up the
pollution in the
In September, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have
at last provided $2-billion to jump-start some
One of the biggest flaws that has
cropped up is that the
In 2005 the releases of polluted lake water spawned massive algae blooms in the two rivers, killing fish, driving away tourists and producing a large public backlash against the river releases.
But allowing lake water to spill into the
In 2005, during a discussion of building reservoirs around
the lake to hold back the excess polluted water,
State officials complained that his comments were "irresponsible and unfounded."
Then, last fall, corps officials proposed building a $1-billion underground pipeline system to carry off the excess lake water. They called it "a bold step toward restoration."
"Once again we're routing dirty water,"
Polluted water issue
In an e-mail to Giattina,
"I NEVER question the importance of the issues you raise or your technical competency. What concerns me is HOW you raise the issues," Giattina replied.
In January, Giattina wrote
"I believe that your remarks compromise our ability to
have an effective voice on critically important matters with regard to
Nevertheless, Giattina wrote, "because this is my first expression of concern in writing to you regarding this matter, I am still rating your performance ... as 'fully successful.'"
To Perry of the Everglades Coalition,
"If we're dumping polluted water into a national park, somebody should raise a red flag," he said. "To take the attitude of 'Oh, we don't want to ruffle any feathers,' that's not going to work."
Corps officials could not be reached for comment on whether
they had complained about
"No one's ever going to say it, but I think it was to
make sure he and the South Florida Water Management District didn't come into
contact anymore," said Wayne Daltry,
State officials insist they had nothing to do with what
"He's a good guy," said Mike Collins, a longtime water district board member. "They didn't consult with me on that one."
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
What they said
Other officials removed from the
- In 1998, the South Florida Water Management District - the main state agency working on the project - fired senior environmental scientist Herbert Grimshaw after he accused his bosses of burying his research on phosphorous levels in the Everglades. A year later, as a result of a lawsuit, he was rehired and his research finally published.
- In 1999, the water district fired research scientist Nick Aumen after he complained at a forum on improving communications that the bureaucrats and politicians directing the project were too busy with private meetings or "walking around with cell phones" to listen to scientists.
- In 2000, water district Deputy Executive Director Bill Malone resigned under pressure after he was accused of questioning the expense of a multimillion-dollar deal that top officials of Gov. Jeb Bush's administration had worked out to buy farmland for the restoration project.
- In 2003 the water district's chief environmental
scientist, Lou Toth, told the South Florida
Sun-Sentinel that the push to restore the