The regional head of the Environmental Protection Agency is taking a job at the agency’s headquarters, leaving behind an office that has been criticized by St. Louis-area officials for its handling of the West Lake Landfill.
Karl Brooks, as administrator of EPA Region 7 since 2010, led the office during a time when EPA was active issuing new rules and regulations that could have an outsize effect on Midwestern agricultural and utility interests. Region 7 comprises Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, and its offices are in Lenexa, Kan., outside Kansas City.
But in St. Louis, Brooks became best known for his role in overseeing the long-contaminated West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, a Superfund site under EPA jurisdiction.
In late 2010, an underground fire was discovered in the Bridgeton Landfill, adjacent to the radioactively contaminated West Lake Landfill. Brooks was criticized by state and local officials for being slow to respond to the still-burning fire and clean up or isolate West Lake’s radioactive waste.
“He runs an organization that needs to step up to the plate and start moving,” Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in December.
In 2008, before Brooks took over, the EPA proposed a remedy at the site that would have capped the waste in place. It withdrew the plan after critics said removal or encapsulation would better protect residents in an urban area.
In December, Brooks told the Post-Dispatch that the agency would propose a new remedy by the time President Barack Obama’s second term ends.
“I am committed to getting our part of that done so the public has a chance to look at that proposed remedy before January 2017,” Brooks said then.
Brooks will begin March 9 as deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Administration and Resources Management. The Washington, D.C., office is in charge of the EPA’s human resources, grants, contracts and facilities.
Mark Hague, Region 7’s deputy regional administrator, has been promoted to acting regional administrator, replacing Brooks.
Two other people in Region 7 in charge of Superfund activities have also moved to other positions in the agency in the last year.
In October, Brad Vann took over as the EPA’s project manager for West Lake, replacing Dan Gravatt. Region 7’s former Superfund division director, Cecilia Tapia, has also been reassigned in the last year.