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 .
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.