The Man Who Wasn’t There

In 2014, a mystery man accompanied the EPA to the Bridgeton Municipal Athletic  Complex .  He refused to identify himself, leaving in his wake a  gulf of government unaccountability and widening public doubt . 

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 14.15.45




The man in the center of the photograph above is EPA on-scene coordinator Tom Mahler of Region 7.  The picture was taken in May 2014 when Mahler and other EPA officials began testing the Bridgeton Municipal Athletic Complex for radioactive contaminants.

The agency later announced that it had found evidence of contamination but not enough to warrant concern, according to its guidelines.

The EPA had reached this conclusion before they arrived at the site, however. Because weeks earlier then-regional EPA administrator Karl Brooks had pronounced  the ballfields safe at a press conference at Bridgeton City Hall.

Brooks claimed that the EPA had science on its side.

In essence, EPA had reached its findings first and then verified them later.  That’s not how the scientific model works.  The EPA is supposed to operate with transparency and on behalf of U.S. citizens, too. But that didn’t happen in this case, either.

The man in the blue T-shirt and sunglasses, with his back to camera, chose to remain anonymous that day. When asked by filmmakers to identify himself, he refused. He also refused to say for whom he worked.

The survey was being paid for with taxpayer dollars.  The EPA, a public agency  charged with protecting our shared environment was conducting testing on publicly-owned property to protect public health — and the guy in the shades would prefer not to be recognized as being present for the occasion.

It is unknown if he worked for an EPA contractor or another government agency. His identity remains unknown. The purpose for being there that day remains a mystery.

He’s the man who wasn’t there.

This frozen frame represents a moment in time. It is among the hundreds of hours of footage shot to make The First Secret City, a documentary that exposes a history of denial and neglect that originated with the Manhattan Project and continues today.  

The next screening of the film will be  at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 14 at the University of Missouri St. Louis.




One thought on “The Man Who Wasn’t There

  1. That’s interesting, because Tom is now assistant project manager under Brad Vann at the landfill. I believe he stays in St Louis, and that might be his new office at Bridgeton City Hall.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s