Project manager in Missouri sentenced to 5 years in prison for false statements regarding lead contamination in a city park

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A project manager has been sentenced in federal court for misleading federal authorities about lead contamination in a Granby, Mo., city park after he was hired to conduct remediation at the site.

Lynn Eich, 65, of Dewitt, Iowa, was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips on Thursday, June 1, to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $40,000 fine.

Eich’s employer, Environmental Quality Management, has paid more than $2 million in restitution in two federal civil settlements. Environmental Quality Management paid $1,708,748 in a federal civil settlement agreement related to violations of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and $338,119 in a federal civil settlement agreement related to violations of the False Claims Act. These settlement agreements, executed on April 24, 2023, fully compensate the government for its costs to remove lead contamination from the Granby park.

On July 28, 2022, Eich pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement relating to a federal environmental remediation contract.

Eich was employed by Environmental Quality Management as the project manager for a soil remediation project in Newton County, Mo. The remediation company was awarded a contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, which ultimately totaled nearly $12 million, to perform mine waste remediation at the Newton County Mine Waste Remediation Superfund Site in and around Granby. This area had been previously contaminated with lead in the surface soil deposited through historical mining and smelting operations in the area.

The contract required the removal of contaminated soil and backfilling some areas, including Granby City Park, using clean fill material. According to court documents, Eich caused further contamination of the site then misled federal administrators about the extent of the contamination.

Approximately one month before it was awarded the contract for the Newton County project, the remediation company was also awarded an EPA contract in Oronogo, Mo., to complete a similar but larger soil remediation project. The receipt of both contracts was not expected and caused Eich to request a personnel change to the Newton County project’s Quality Assurance, Quality Control (QAQC) Manager in order to complete both contracts. Eich represented to the Corps of Engineers that the replacement for the QAQC Manager had comparable experience as the person listed on the original application and that the replacement was qualified to fulfill the duties of a QAQC Manager on the Newton County project. In fact, the replacement QAQC Manager was not qualified and had little to no experience testing soil for hazardous materials.

Between Sept. 12 and Oct. 19, 2016, the QAQC Manager failed to properly test fill material that was used to remediate Granby City Park.

On Oct. 14, 2016, the site superintendent, who reported to Eich, received laboratory analysis of two samples taken from the offsite borrow source. One sample indicated lead levels of 640 mg/kg and the other indicated a lead level of 720 mg/kg, both in excess of the contractual requirement of less than 100 mg/kg. The results of these samples were not reported to the EPA or the Corps of Engineers as required by federal environmental laws.

On June 4, 2018, Eich called the Corps of Engineers and indicated that a “hot spot” had been detected in Granby City Park. During the call, Eich misrepresented the scope of the area of contamination at the park by stating that it was less than 1,000 cubic yards. Eich also submitted a map of Granby City Park that showed a limited area of contamination when, as Eich knew, lead contamination was pervasive through the entire park.

Eich admitted that he intentionally made this false statement and provided false information regarding the scope and amount of lead contamination at Granby City Park.

The EPA then conducted its own sampling of Granby City Park, followed by additional sampling by the EPA National Enforcement Investigations Center, which found Granby City Park was still contaminated by lead in the soil. The EPA was required to hire another remediation contractor to conduct a removal project of Granby City Park. The removal project required removal of the contaminated backfill and soil from the park to ensure the health and safety of the community. The removal project was completed in June 2021, resulting in additional costs to the EPA.

This criminal case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brent Venneman and Casey Clark. It was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General; the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigative Division; the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and the Army Criminal Investigative Division, Major Procurement Fraud Unit.

The civil cases were executed by the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Regional Counsel and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Division Chief Jeff Ray.