Do not publish before

You’re welcome to republish our articles and graphics for free under Creative Commons license CC BY-ND. We ask that you observe the following ground rules. Let us know if you republish our stories; it makes us happy!

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. You can’t change the story in any way except to change references to timing (say, “today” to “yesterday”) or to suit your in-house style rules (“Rockford” to “Rockford, Ill.”).
  2. If you have space constraints and want to shorten the story, we’re happy to consider your request. Please contact our Director of Investigations for approval. We will occasionally provide a shortened version of stories, which you would find below.
  3. You can republish provided photos and graphics as long as you’re running them on the stories with which they originally appeared and include original credits. You are not required to publish provided photos and graphics.
  4. Publish the author’s name using the following format: By Brett Chase , Better Government Association. Link back to our home page, bettergov.org, in that credit line.
  5. At the end of the story, when possible, please add the following: This story was produced by the Better Government Association, a nonprofit news organization based in Chicago. (This is automatically included if copying from HTML textarea.)
  6. Include our logo.
  7. Don’t resell the story to someone else.
  8. Don’t sell ads against our story. Feel free, however, to publish it on a page surrounded by ads you’ve already sold.
  9. If you publish our story online, please try your best to include all of our internal links. Don't apply rel="nofollow" to any of these links.
  10. If we send you a request to remove the content from your site, you must agree to do so immediately.

Tracking our stories:

Because the Better Government Association syndicates our work for free, we often have trouble tracking down how many people read BGA stories on our partners’ sites. We’ve implemented a tracker called Pixel Ping to help measure this audience. If your CMS allows, please assist us in this effort by including the code snippet below anywhere in the story's HTML. The tracker captures views only; no other information will be gathered.

How to do this:

  1. If you copy the HTML in the textarea below, the script is automatically included.

  2. Otherwise, please manually insert the following script into your source.

    <script async src="https://pixel.bettergov.org/pixel.js" crossorigin="anonymous" data-bga-canonical="https://www.bettergov.org/news/trump-rolls-back-epa-oversight-in-midwest-favoring-polluters/"></script>

Social media:

When sharing republished BGA content, please include attribution to BGA social media accounts in your post:

Have questions? Please contact John Chase, director of investigations, at jchase@bettergov.org.


Headline:

Trump Rolls Back EPA Oversight in Midwest, Favoring Polluters

Deck:

EPA inspections and staff levels plunge in the Chicago regional office as regulations are abandoned and policy favors job creation over clean air and water. The Midwest is among the areas hit hardest by the cutbacks, with inspections down 60% since Trump took office.

Copy article content:

You are viewing the original version (2439 words).

You are viewing the abridged version (1967 words).

SAUGET, IL — Mamie Cosey and those living near this tiny, industrial village on the banks of the Mississippi River spent years wondering what poisons spewed from the three billowing stacks of a waste incinerator plant they all smell from their front porches.

Just two days before President Barack Obama left office, his Environmental Protection Agency ordered the stacks continuously monitored for arsenic, lead, mercury and other harmful metals that the 78-year-old Cosey blames for the health problems of her three great-grandchildren.

It was a victory that took local environmental groups more than a decade to secure.

But the French owner of the Veolia North America plant, which argues the daily monitoring is too restrictive and unreliable, knew Obama’s EPA didn’t have the last word. Donald Trump’s EPA did. 

Just two months into the Trump presidency, the plant manager and the company’s highly paid lobbyist — a former Illinois congressman — traveled to Washington to meet directly with the new president’s embattled pick as EPA head, Scott Pruitt.

A few days later, an email shows, a company lawyer informed federal EPA staff in Chicago that Pruitt himself was personally stepping into the process.

“Administrator Pruitt is currently reviewing the next steps in Veolia’s permitting process,” Veolia lawyer Joseph Kellmeyer wrote to EPA staff in Chicago on March 31, 2017. “I am certain that all parties involved do not wish to proceed in a manner inconsistent with Administrator Pruitt’s desires.”

Ultimately, the Trump EPA issued a “final revised” permit in June this year that eliminated the previously mandated monitoring guidelines for the plant, leaving Cosey and her neighbors in the mostly poor, black East St. Louis-area community furious and frustrated.

“I can’t hardly breathe,” said Cosey, who cares for three great-grandchildren who she said suffer from asthma, sinus infections and headaches. “For the government to not require them to have a monitor up is ludicrous.” 

That ruling in Sauget is just one in a string of decisions by the Trump administration to reduce staff and relax or reverse regulation and policies throughout the Midwest, according to a Better Government Association investigation.

“This administration has been relentlessly attacking the employees who protect human health and the environment since January 2017,” said Nicole Cantello, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 in Chicago, which represents EPA employees. “Science and fact no longer rule here.”

Since Trump took office, there are about 150 fewer scientists, technicians and other employees in the Chicago-based EPA offices of Region 5 — which serves Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, according to EPA figures provided by the union. The 945 employees that records show are employed in Region 5 this year falls well short of the 995 positions authorized by Congress, according to figures provided by the union and EPA.

Even more striking are statistics that show Chicago’s Region 5 has been hit hard in a nationwide slashing of inspections for air, water and land pollution. Inspections under Trump out of the Chicago office have plummeted by more than 60 percent, while inspections throughout the rest of the nation dropped by 30 percent. The same nationwide trend holds true for enforcement actions, designed to urge polluters to change their behaviors through fines, cleanups and mitigation agreements.

That trend is little surprise given Trump’s repeated campaign promises to work the levers of the executive branch to free up business and industry from what he says are overburdensome directives from the federal government. The impact of Trump’s policies on environmental enforcement has been well documented nationwide.

But the on-the-ground impact in the Midwest is just beginning to be felt by residents in towns such as East St. Louis and Cahokia, which are directly affected by the air in Sauget, pronounced saw-ZHAY. And the decisions — and how they came about — have prompted many career EPA officials to question edicts they say contradict agency science.

Among some of the most notable complaints revolved around a copper and nickel mine in Minnesota allowed to discharge wastewater that some staffers warned threatened the health of nearby waterways that flow into the St. Louis River and Lake Superior, and the controversial Foxconn manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin, which benefits from relaxed air pollution enforcement.

In the Chicago area, Illinois’ two senators have demanded an investigation into whether politics played a part in curtailing EPA tests for cancer-causing gases at three suburban Chicago plants.

“Political interferences are pervasive,” Cantello said.

Cathy Stepp, appointed under Trump to head Region 5, declined numerous requests for interviews for this report. A spokeswoman for her office said the EPA has become more dependent on “state assists” and a reinvigorated self-audit program.

As recently as September, Stepp boasted in a public appearance that nearly 50 environmental regulations had been rescinded on Trump’s watch, which she said saved taxpayers $3.7 billion. Those regulations included clean air and water protections, rules on hazardous waste and pesticides, as well as landfill requirements.

“Enforcement is an important tool to achieve compliance, but it is not the only tool,’’ EPA spokeswoman Rachel Bassler said in a written statement to the BGA. “We are developing measures to track both informal actions and state assists that result in a return to compliance.”

'You Are Hurting My Children'

Even though environmental groups fought more than a decade to win stiffer controls at the Veolia plant, it wasn’t until Trump’s EPA began to change course that angry residents organized to begin protesting.

The Obama EPA issued the plant a final permit on January 18, 2017 — two days before Trump was inaugurated — requiring the installation of monitors at all three stacks to continuously record emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic and other materials for a one-year period. Previously, the plant would measure its emissions once every five years.

Veolia immediately began the appeal process, records show.

On March 27, 2017, the plant manager and company lobbyist — former Downstate Democratic U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello — met with Pruitt, a longtime foe of the EPA and at the time Trump’s controversial pick to run the agency. 

Veolia had fought the new monitoring requirements, under consideration by the EPA since at least 2013, records show. The company argued the EPA restrictions required the purchase of $250,000 monitors that remain largely untested and are manufactured by only one Oregon company. 

Veolia’s plant manager Doug Harris said in a recent interview the company was being unfairly treated because such stringent monitoring wasn’t being required at any other hazardous waste incinerators throughout the country. 

Records reviewed by the BGA show the agency noted Veolia’s history of pollution violations dating back to at least 2006. The Obama EPA cited the urgency of improved monitoring in the East St. Louis area because it was an “overburdened” community that bears “environmental harms and risk as a result of cumulative impacts or greater vulnerability to environmental hazards.”

Harris downplayed the role his meeting with Pruitt had in rescinding the Obama-era requirements. “For all I know, the Obama administration would’ve met with us,” he said.

Costello, who records show was paid $450,000 by Veolia to work on the company’s permit issues between 2015 and 2018, declined to comment. 

Last year, Cosey and other angry East St. Louis residents were enlisted by a coalition of area churches to help battle the company’s appeal to the Trump EPA.

“You are hurting my children and my community,” she said, sitting in the living room of her East St. Louis home. “It really was just an insult.”

Cosey and her neighbors — motivated by sick children, the stench coming up from drains and the thick vapor spewing from three 100-foot stacks — have never trusted the infrequent reports coming from the plant, which burns industrial sludge and other hazardous materials.

Environmental concerns have surrounded Sauget for decades.

At a size of about five square miles, Sauget resembles more an industrial park than a community. 

“It sets in your throat and in the hairs in your nose,” said the Rev. Norma Patterson, president of United Congregations of Metro East, a coalition of 27 area churches.  

When it was first incorporated in 1926, Sauget was named Monsanto, developed as a company town to provide a lighter regulatory environment for the chemical maker. From 1929 to 1977, Monsanto produced more than 500,000 tons of the now-banned polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, at one plant in Sauget. PCB contamination contributed to two nearby toxic waste sites designated for cleanup by the EPA’s Superfund program. The village, population 159, is still home to several chemical plants, a massive regional sewage treatment plant and a pair of strip clubs. 

The decades of problems made the recent EPA reversal all the more disheartening.

“It’s a total disregard for the folks living around there,” said Dale Wojtkowski, whose environmental group American Bottom Conservancy has been battling the incinerator since 2004.

“It made me angry,” he said. “Especially since a lot of people put a lot of effort into it, and it affects a lot of people in an environmental justice community, lower-income people, and it seems to me they’re treated very unfairly.”

Veolia won its appeal in June, when the EPA issued a new and revised permit removing the stricter requirements for monitoring. The company instead agreed to install additional internal controls aimed at limiting only mercury emissions. Residents say it’s impossible to know how effective those controls will be without monitors. 

“For them to turn around something so different months after they issued a final permit is pretty dramatic,” said Elizabeth Hubertz, a lawyer with the environmental law clinic at Washington University in St. Louis. Hubertz is appealing the new permit on behalf of the American Bottom Conservancy.

EPA Staff Complaints Pervasive

In Minnesota last year, state environmental officials approved a permit for a copper mine — owned by PolyMet Mining — near the St. Louis River, a tributary of Lake Superior. The permit hit a snag six months later after an EPA email was leaked suggesting the permit was issued under unusual circumstances that favored the mine.

The email said that water contamination concerns raised by the Chicago EPA staff overseeing the permit process were kept secret from the public at the request of Minnesota state officials.

The controversy prompted lawsuits from environmental groups challenging the permit and a federal investigation into the EPA’s oversight of the process.

In August, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered the case back to district court for “hearing and determination of alleged procedural irregularities related to the grant of the permit.” The EPA’s inspector general opened an investigation in June. A PolyMet spokesman said the company believes the permit addresses EPA concerns and it hopes it will eventually be allowed to start mining.

In Wisconsin last year, the Taiwanese company Foxconn got a break from environmental regulators in its efforts to build a massive flat-screen electronics plant near Racine.

That break came after areas of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana were given passing grades by the EPA on air quality against the advice of its own scientific staff, emails show.

“There is no credible evidence to support this,” one scientist, Jennifer Liljegren, wrote in April 2018 referencing a plan to declare Southeast Wisconsin air in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act.

Liljegren’s email and others were obtained by environmental groups suing to reverse the decisions. The review of Wisconsin’s air was vital to the then-proposed plant. By declaring the air clean, the EPA gave Foxconn a pass on buying air filters required in polluted areas.

Environmental groups have sued to reverse the decision. Trump touted in a 2018 speech at the Foxconn site that the plant symbolizes a manufacturing comeback under his presidency.   

In suburban Chicago in January, Illinois’ two U.S. senators called for a federal probe into alleged political interference in EPA decisions they say allowed cancer-causing chemicals into the air at three different plants.

In a letter to the EPA’s inspector general, both U.S. senators from Illinois, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, called for an investigation into whether Region 5 EPA Administrator Stepp ordered a halt to air inspections related to the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide. 

In their letter — prompted by complaints from another unnamed Chicago EPA staffer — the senators alleged “politically motivated interference overriding recommendations of career staff.’’

Both Duckworth and Durbin have criticized the EPA’s oversight at Sterigenics International plant in the DuPage County village of Willowbrook, the Medline Industries plant in Waukegan and the Vantage Specialty Chemicals facility in Gurnee.

Sterigenics has since closed its facility after an order from the state, and said it won’t reopen. The two plants in Lake County continue to operate. 

An 'Urgent' Need To Act

“That’s where we are right now,” Duckworth told the BGA in a recent interview. “To continue to put pressure on them but also to get an outside independent third party to take a look at what’s happening.”

Durbin said he fears staff cuts and regulatory favors for big business is threatening public health.

“If you remove the personnel that have a professional responsibility when it comes to inspections and enforcements, fewer are going to be done,” he said. “Some people who are vulnerable are going to find their health and safety compromised.”

In Illinois, Atty. Gen. Kwame Raoul said he is challenging more than 40 of the Trump administration’s environmental and energy policies. 

“The need to act now is urgent, and in the absence of real leadership at the federal level,” Raoul said in a statement to the BGA. 

John Kim, director of the Illinois EPA appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, agreed and said current policies “are weakening protections that have been effective and in place for years.”

That comes as little consolation to Mamie Cosey, whose three great-grandchildren are still breathing air she does not trust. Twice in the past two years, she said, her 15-year-old great-granddaughter was rushed to the hospital suffering from what Cosey feared were seizures.

“It’s not safe here,” she said. “They can’t go out and play. We wake up at night and it smells like someone is cooking … my children say Granny please shut the door. Kids should not have to live like that.”

“We just learned to live with it. We shouldn’t have to do that in America,” Cosey said. “The EPA is supposed to protect the community and the people.”

 

A story published last week misidentified the purpose of a Gurnee chemical plant that has emissions regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Vantage Specialty Chemicals uses a chemical in the production of ingredients for personal care, food, consumer products and other industrial uses. We regret the error.

This story was produced by the Better Government Association, a nonprofit news organization based in Chicago.

Mamie Cosey and others living near downstate Sauget, a tiny, industrial town on the banks of the Mississippi River near East St. Louis, wondered for years what poisons they all could smell spewing from the three smokestacks of a waste-incinerator plant.

Two days before President Barack Obama left office, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ordered that the stacks be continuously monitored for arsenic, lead, mercury and other harmful metals that the 78-year-old Cosey blames for the health problems of her three great-grandchildren.

It was a victory environmental groups took more than a decade to secure.

But the French owner of the Veolia North America plant, which fought daily monitoring as too restrictive and unreliable, knew that Obama’s EPA wouldn’t have the last word. President Donald Trump’s EPA would.

Two months into the Trump presidency, the plant manager and the company’s lobbyist — a former Illinois congressman — traveled to Washington to meet with the new president’s embattled choice to head the agency, Scott Pruitt.

Days later, a company lawyer emailed federal EPA staff in Chicago that Pruitt himself was stepping into the process. “Administrator Pruitt is currently reviewing the next steps in Veolia's permitting process,” Veolia lawyer Joseph Kellmeyer wrote on March 31, 2017. “I am certain that all parties involved do not wish to proceed in a manner inconsistent with Administrator Pruitt’s desires.”

This past June, the EPA issued a “final revised” permit, eliminating the mandated monitoring guidelines for the plant, leaving Cosey and her neighbors in the mostly poor, largely African American community angry and frustrated.

“I can’t hardly breathe,” says Cosey, who takes care of three great-grandchildren she says suffer from asthma, sinus infections and headaches. “For the government to not require them to have a monitor up is ludicrous.”

It was one in a string of decisions by the Trump administration to cut staff and relax or reverse environmental regulations and policies throughout the Midwest, a Better Government Association investigation has found.

Since Trump took office, about 150 fewer scientists, technicians and other employees are working in the EPA’s Chicago Region 5, covering Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, according to EPA figures provided by the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 in Chicago, the EPA employees’ union. The 945 employees in Region 5 this year compares to the 995 positions authorized by Congress, according to figures provided by the union and the EPA.

The number of inspections out of the Chicago office has plummeted by more than 60%, while inspections throughout the rest of the nation declined by 30%. The same pattern is true of enforcement actions aimed at getting polluters to change their actions through fines, cleanups and mitigation agreements.

The impact isn’t only being felt in towns such as East St. Louis and Cahokia, which are affected by the air quality in Sauget (pronounced saw-ZHAY). In the Chicago area, Illinois’ two U.S. senators have called for an investigation into whether politics played a part in curtailing EPA tests for cancer-causing gases at three suburban plants. In Minnesota, a copper and nickel mine is being allowed to discharge wastewater even though some EPA staffers have warned that threatens waterways that flow into the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.

Cathy Stepp, appointed under Trump to head the EPA Region 5 office, said in a public appearance in September that nearly 50 environmental regulations had been rescinded on Trump’s watch, saving taxpayers $3.7 billion. Stepp declined interview requests.

“Enforcement is an important tool to achieve compliance, but it is not the only tool,’’ says Rachel Bassler, a spokeswoman for the EPA regional office, who says the agency now relies more on “state assists” and self-audits.

Environmental groups fought for more than a decade for stiffer controls at the Veolia plant and began protests after Trump’s EPA started changing course.

The Obama EPA had issued a final permit Jan. 18, 2017 — two days before Trump’s inauguration — requiring the installation of monitors at all three stacks to continuously record emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic and other materials for one year. Previously, the plant would measure emissions every five years.

Veolia appealed the terms of the new permit. On March 27, 2017, the plant manager and company lobbyist — former downstate Democratic U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello — met with Pruitt, a longtime foe of the EPA and Trump’s pick to run the agency. Veolia argued that EPA restrictions required the purchase of $250,000 monitors that are largely untested and manufactured by only one company.

Veolia’s plant manager Doug Harris says such stringent monitoring wasn’t required at any other hazardous waste incinerators throughout the country.

Records show the agency noted Veolia’s history of pollution violations dating to at least 2006. Obama’s EPA cited the urgency of improved monitoring in the East St. Louis area, calling it an “overburdened” community that bears “environmental harms and risk as a result of cumulative impacts or greater vulnerability to environmental hazards.”

Harris downplays the role his meeting with Pruitt had in rescinding the Obama-era requirements. “For all I know, the Obama administration would’ve met with us,” he says.

Costello, who records show was paid $450,000 by Veolia to work on the company’s permit issues between 2015 and 2018, declined to comment.

Last year, Cosey and other East St. Louis residents were enlisted by a coalition of churches to oppose the company’s appeal.

“You are hurting my children and my community,” she says, sitting in the living room of her East St. Louis home. “It really was just an insult.”

She and her neighbors have never trusted the infrequent reports coming from the plant, which burns industrial sludge and other hazardous materials.

“It sets in your throat and in the hairs in your nose,” says the Rev. Norma Patterson, president of United Congregations of Metro East, a coalition of 27 churches.

When Sauget was incorporated in 1926, it was called Monsanto, having been developed as a company town for the chemical maker. From 1929 to 1977, Monsanto produced more than 500,000 tons of the now-banned polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, at a plant in Sauget. PCB contamination contributed to two nearby toxic-waste sites designated for cleanup by the EPA’s Superfund program. The town, population 159, is still home to several chemical plants and a massive regional sewage treatment plant.

“It’s a total disregard for the folks living around there,” says Dale Wojtkowski, whose environmental group American Bottom Conservancy has been battling the incinerator since 2004.

“It made me angry,” he says. “Especially since a lot of people put a lot of effort into it, and it affects a lot of people in an environmental justice community, lower-income people, and it seems to me they’re treated very unfairly.”

Veolia won its appeal this June, when the EPA issued a revised permit that dropped the stricter monitoring requirements. The company instead agreed to install additional internal controls aimed at limiting only mercury emissions.

Sauget residents and their supporters say it’s impossible to know how effective those controls will be without monitors.

“For them to turn around something so different months after they issued a final permit is pretty dramatic,” says Elizabeth Hubertz, a lawyer with the environmental law clinic at Washington University in St. Louis, which is appealing the new permit on behalf of the American Bottom Conservancy.

In Minnesota last year, state environmental officials approved a permit for a copper mine — owned by PolyMet Mining — near the St. Louis River, a tributary of Lake Superior. The permit hit a snag six months later after a leaked EPA email suggested the permit was issued under circumstances that favored the mine. It said water-contamination concerns raised by the Chicago EPA staff overseeing the permit process were kept secret from the public at the request of Minnesota state officials.

The controversy prompted lawsuits from environmental groups over the permit and a federal investigation into the EPA’s oversight.

In August, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered the case be returned to district court for a “hearing and determination of alleged procedural irregularities related to the grant of the permit.”

The EPA’s inspector general opened an investigation in June.

A PolyMet spokesman says the permit addresses the EPA’s concerns and that the company hopes it ultimately will be allowed to start mining.

In Wisconsin last year, the Taiwanese company Foxconn was given a break from environmental regulators in its efforts to build a massive flat-screen electronics plant near Racine. That came after parts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana were given passing grades by the EPA on air quality against the advice of the agency’s scientific staff, emails show.

“There is no credible evidence to support this,” one EPA scientist, Jennifer Liljegren, wrote in April 2018 of a plan to declare southeast Wisconsin’s air quality to be in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act.

Liljegren’s email and others were obtained by environmental groups suing to reverse the decisions. The review of Wisconsin’s air was vital to the then-proposed plant. By declaring the air clean, the EPA gave Foxconn a pass on being required to buy air filters that are required in polluted areas.

Environmental groups have sued in an effort to reverse the decision.

In a speech last year at the Foxconn site, Trump said the plant symbolizes a manufacturing comeback under his presidency.

In January, Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Tammy Duckworth called for a federal probe of allegations of political interference in EPA decisions they say allowed cancer-causing chemicals into the air at three plants in Chicago’s suburbs. In a letter to the EPA’s inspector general, they asked for an investigation into whether Stepp halted air inspections related to the cancer-causing chemical ethylene oxide.

In their letter — prompted by complaints from an unnamed Chicago EPA staffer — the senators cited “politically motivated interference overriding recommendations of career staff.’’

Duckworth and Durbin have criticized the EPA’s oversight at Sterigenics International plant in Willowbrook, Medline Industries’ plant in Waukegan and the Vantage Specialty Chemical facility in Gurnee.

Sterigenics has since closed its facility after an order from the state and said it won’t reopen. The two plants in Lake County are still operating.

“That’s where we are right now,” Duckworth says. “To continue to put pressure on them but also to get an outside independent third party to take a look at what’s happening.”

Durbin says he fears staff cuts and regulatory favors for big business are threatening public health.

“If you remove the personnel that have a professional responsibility when it comes to inspections and enforcements, fewer are going to be done,” he says. “Some people who are vulnerable are going to find their health and safety compromised.”

Attorney General Kwame Raoul says he is challenging more than 40 of the Trump administration’s environmental and energy policies. “The need to act now is urgent, and in the absence of real leadership at the federal level,” Raoul says.

John Kim, director of the Illinois EPA, says federal policies “are weakening protections that have been effective and in place for years.”

All of the talk is little consolation to Mamie Cosey, whose three great-grandchildren are still breathing air she doesn’t trust is safe. Twice in the past two years, she says her 15-year-old great-granddaughter was rushed to a hospital with what Cosey feared were seizures.

“It’s not safe here,” she says. “They can’t go out and play. We wake up at night, and it smells like someone is cooking … My children say, ‘Granny, please shut the door.’ Kids should not have to live like that.

“We just learned to live with it. We shouldn’t have to do that in America,” Cosey says. “The EPA is supposed to protect the community and the people.”

This story was produced by the Better Government Association, a nonprofit news organization based in Chicago.

Republishable images:

AttachmentDownloadCaptionCutline
Mamie Cosey, 78, stands on the front porch of her East St. Louis home near the Veolia waste incinerator she blames for making her great-grandchildren sick. Image icon Download EPA Mamie lead art.jpg (2.4 MB)Mamie Cosey, 78, stands on the front porch of her East St. Louis home near the Veolia waste incinerator she blames for making her great-grandchildren sick. Odell Mitchell Jr. for the BGA
EPA compliance monitoring graphicImage icon Download Compliance monitoring 1-8.png (109.27 KB)Jared Rutecki/BGA
Nicole Cantello, president of the Chicago union representing EPA workersImage icon Download EPA Nicole Cantello.jpg (623.1 KB)“This administration has been relentlessly attacking the employees who protect human health and the environment since January 2017,” said Nicole Cantello, president of the Chicago union representing EPA workers. Brett Chase/BGA
Some Chicago EPA employees joined others at a protest by Trump Tower during the president’s visit to the city in October.Image icon Download EPA Trump protest.jpg (633.77 KB)Some Chicago EPA employees joined others at a protest by Trump Tower during the president’s visit to the city in October.Brett Chase/BGA
Residents pleaded with the EPA to require stricter monitoring of the Veolia hazardous waste incinerator near East St. Louis.Image icon Download EPA smokestack.jpg (343.71 KB)Residents pleaded with the EPA to require stricter monitoring of the Veolia hazardous waste incinerator near East St. Louis.Odell Mitchell Jr. for the BGA

Republishable graphics:

EPA compliance monitoring graphic - div embed

EPA compliance monitoring graphic - div embed

<div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/818908"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script>

EPA compliance monitoring graphic - iFrame embed

EPA compliance monitoring graphic - iFrame embed

<iframe src='https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/818908/embed' frameborder='0' scrolling='no' style='width:100%;height:600px;'></iframe><div style='width:100%!;margin-top:4px!important;text-align:right!important;'><a class='flourish-credit' href='https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/818908/?utm_source=embed&utm_campaign=visualisation/818908' target='_top' style='text-decoration:none!important'><img alt='Made with Flourish' src='https://public.flourish.studio/resources/made_with_flourish.svg' style='width:105px!important;height:16px!important;border:none!important;margin:0!important;'> </a></div>