(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A meeting hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency faced a tough crowd Wednesday evening.
Representatives from the EPA Region 7, the Department of Justice, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and city officials answered questions about whether HPI Products Inc., has cleaned up hazardous materials at its sites.
HPI manufacturers pesticides and the company has multiple facilities in St. Joseph. Between 2007 and 2017, the EPA as well as other federal, state and local entities said the company improperly stored and disposed of chemicals.
A local citizens’ group, Ecumenical Eco-Justice, has been following HPI's actions closely. Members of the group went to the meeting to get answers but were frustrated with the format. Officials told the crowd that questions would be answered one-on-one and not in a group format.
EJJ's Secretary, Janet Storts said the format was not appropriate for this kind of situation. Others voiced opposition to the meeting's organization.
"When they do this on the individual basis they seem to answer the same question over and over when they could of talked to the group all at once," James Weidinger, a St. Joseph resident said. "I still don't know what is in those building maybe they can't tell you because of the court order."
It was a complaint voiced by many throughout the evening.
"We can't really respond to the answers given because it wasn't given in a community forum," EJJ's Treasurer Krista Kiger said.
Spokesperson for EPA Region 7, Ashley Murdie, said they organized the meeting in a way they thought would answer more individual's questions than in a typical group format.
"We were concerned if we did a public discussion the conversation would be dominated by one or two people and we really wanted everyone to have the opportunity to ask questions face-to-face with members of our team."
Although frustrated by the format of the meeting, Kiger said the people she worked with had gathered as many answers as they could.
"That's what we had to deal with tonight," she said. "We'll deal with it. We will continue to put the pressure on. We want the sites cleaned up. We want responsibility that's always the goal and a cleaner healthier St. Joe."