Hundreds of Veteran Affairs (VA) employees will be moving out of the toxic Goodfellow Federal Complex in north St. Louis County.
Darryl Leatherberry, a Marine Corps veteran who works in Veterans Affairs told KMOV News 4 he cried tears of joy when he found out.
“I cried, it was like, ‘Wow, we get to get out of here,’” said Leatherberry.
The facility has been in the center of controversy with American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Locals 1336 (Social Security), 3354 (Department of Agriculture) and 2192 and 96 (Veterans Affairs) staging numerous protests over the summer demanding the immediate transfer of employees after the discovery of lead contamination and lead contamination and exposure to 82 other contaminants found in the complex.
The situation at the Goodfellow center stems from an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) report from July 2016, in which inspectors documented several “serious” instances of unsafe working conditions, as well as a follow-up report last March from General Services Administration’s (GSA) Office of Inspector General.
Repeated testing over the last three years has revealed the building, which dates back to 1941, has traces of 83 hazardous substances potentially harmful to the health of employees who come in contact with them.
GSA conducted its own analysis in November 2016 and found lead, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals in the ventilation system.
An air sample analysis performed since then showed that, at the time of the sampling, asbestos and lead were no longer in the air at the facility, but the union says GSA failed to follow OSHA’s recommendation to prevent contaminants from migrating from building basements and tunnels into upstairs offices or show that it has addressed the other 81 hazardous substances in the building. Some of the contaminants date back to World War II.
Leatherberry blames the chemicals for serious illnesses and cancer diagnosis his colleagues have received over the years.
“My coworker got stage four cancer and she worked in that building for years,” he said.
In June, AFGE demanded action from the federal government, citing its failure to fulling rid the facility of hazardous materials. Union members protested outside the facility and union leaders traveled to Washington to meet with congressional leaders.
Following those meetings, the VA removed around 500 employees from the complex to a regional office on Page Avenue.
Around 1,500 employees are still working in the complex.
Congressman Lacy Clay’s office is currently looking into ways to remove the rest of the employees from the complex.