Hallway Feces Was Only the Beginning of EPA's Region 8 Problems

EPA's Region 8 headquarters building in Denver. EPA's Region 8 headquarters building in Denver. EPA

A few months ago, Government Executive unearthed an email sent to Environmental Protection Agency workers at a Denver office asking them to stop defecating in the hallway.

Well, it turns out the personal hygiene issues at the Region 8 headquarters were endemic, and it remains unclear if the culprit or culprits were ever caught.

The memorandum sent by Region 8 Deputy Administrator Howard Cantor set off a flurry of fear and rumors, emails made public by a Freedom of Information Act request by The Black Vault show. Email chains among EPA managers tell of the memo “generating a lot of chat” and note that “many women” expressed “feeling fearful.”

The supervisors’ discussed that the hallway excrement was not the first incident of fecal misconduct. The building’s facilities staff previously received a complaint described as “9th floor men’s restroom has a trail of poop leading out in hallway.” The complaint was marked as “medium” priority.

Another email said an employee heard a story that agency management already knew about a woman who had been “wiping feces and menstrual blood on the walls.” The manager apologized to her colleagues for sharing the story, writing, “I’m really sorry, this is beyond gross.” The employee informant was “worried that her behavior is escalating.”

One supervisor was concerned people may be taking the situation lightly, writing she could foresee “humorous comments people would make.” She warned, however, the perpetrator’s next action could be “grander in scheme” if he or she was not brought to justice.

One email thread between Cantor, the deputy administrator, and an individual whose name was redacted, simply had the subject line “dude…” The unknown emailer said there was so much material he could not even make a joke, to which Cantor said they should meet up over drinks so Cantor could hear the individual’s stand-up comedy routine.

One employee did not take the situation lightly; she told her manager that “this place is getting strange so I am going to apply for the buyout.”

After discussing how to respond to employees’ misgivings, the managers decided to deploy increased hallway patrols to “make people feel safer.”

The actions did not stop, however. After the memo was sent out, managers discussed reports of urine on toilet seats, unflushed toilets and intentionally clogged toilets. The emails also indicated that management followed up on its initial consultation with John Nicoletti, a workplace safety expert brought in to evaluate the dangers of hallway defecation, telling him “it hasn’t stopped and we haven’t identified a subject.”

Denver was also not the first EPA office to experience feces in the hallway; a redacted individual emailed one of the managers to tell her a similar incident occurred years earlier at a Region 3 building. The individual offered a name to glean the lessons learned from that incident. The hallway incident was not even the first misplaced defecation at the Denver office; an employee previously relieved himself outside the building after realizing he was locked out.

The emails unearthed in the FOIA request then jump forward a few months to around the time the Government Executive story ran. The same managers discuss how to respond to GovExec’s request for comment. After realizing the national attention the story was drawing, they issued another regionwide email telling employees how to deal with media inquiries.

One email sounded the alarm that “there are news cameras out front.” 

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