Tabloid Publisher Slams EPA Testing


(AP) The president of a tabloid publishing company that had an employee die of anthrax criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for not pinpointing where the bacteria was found in the company’s headquarters.

In an e-mail to employees on Monday, David Pecker said the EPA failed to give exact locations of “hot spots” they found on all three floors of the American Media Inc. building.

“We had requested that the EPA undertake additional testing to disclose the intensity of a ‘hot’ area in order to fine-tune a building cleanup plan … but it does not appear they will assist us in this endeavor,” Pecker wrote.

The EPA, which paid for the testing, turned the site over to the company for decontamination on Friday after it finished collecting environmental samples.

Rick Jardine, an agency official who helped oversee the project, said the testing was not intended to determine the intensity of the contamination; anthrax was found on all the floors and in carpeting.

“It’s pretty much permeated all over,” Jardine said. “You’re going to have to clean the whole thing anyway. To me, that would be the appropriate thing to do.”

The EPA backed off earlier plans to use Superfund money to pay for the entire cleanup. The agency asked AMI to hire a private contractor and pay for decontaminating the building.

Pecker also said the EPA found no signs of bacteria in the building’s ventilation system — a finding contrary to the opinion of AMI’s team of environmental consultants.

“Our environmental team believes the EPA’s conclusions cannot be valid,” Pecker said. “This does not mean anthrax was in our ventilation system. It only means that we cannot rely on these tests for accurate information.”

EPA spokesman Carl Terry said the agency was confident about the testing and will continue to share that data with the company.

Bob Stevens, photo editor for The Sun, died of inhalation anthrax, the more lethal form of the disease, on Oct. 5. Investigators believe he breathed in the germ in a letter sent to the company. An AMI mail courier also contracted the inhaled form, but has recovered.

The FBI found spores in the mailroom and Stevens’ third-floor desk.

The building, closed on Oct. 7, remains quarantined by the Palm Beach County Health Department.

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