EPA whistleblower sues university

A University of Georgia (UGA) microbiologist and whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency is suing the university Board of Regents, the university research foundation, and five faculty members for accepting federal grant money to publish fraudulent research, according to court documents.

By | April 21, 2008

A University of Georgia (UGA) microbiologist and whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency is suing the university Board of Regents, the university research foundation, and five faculty members for accepting federal grant money to publish fraudulent research, according to court documents. David Lewis, an adjunct professor in the university department of ecology, conducted EPA-funded research in the 1990s on the harmful effects of sewage sludge, and in 1996 wrote a commentary in Nature deriding the agency for the lack of science supporting its regulations. He claims those allegations cost him his job with the EPA, as we linkurl:reported;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15197/ in 2005. Beginning in 1998 Lewis began researching human illness and death associated with the use of EPA-regulated sewage sludge. Meanwhile, another team of UGA-EPA researchers -- in a study called the "Risse project" -- also began studying Augusta sewage in 1998, and later reported that the sludge was well within environmental compliance. They vocally opposed Lewis' work, and one member of the Risse project filed allegations of misconduct against him in 2000. The university investigator found the allegations to be groundless. Lewis and two families whose farms had been affected by the toxic sludge filed suit against members of the Risse project and university bodies in 2006. The case has been sealed until now. In court documents obtained by linkurl:Red and Black;http://media.www.redandblack.com/media/storage/paper871/news/2008/04/18/News/University.Faces.Lawsuit.For.Research.with.Documents-3333969.shtml (a UGA newspaper), the plaintiffs claim that Risse project members intentionally distorted toxic substance amounts in the sludge by collecting samples only during droughts, when levels would be "misleadingly low." The files say that the Risse project garnered more than $1.5 million in federal grants. Lewis and his co-plaintiffs also claim that the university Board of Regents and the research foundation, which supervised the projects, knew they were fraudulent but supported the work in order to obtain further federal grants. UGA is one of five finalists vying to become a national center for agro-bioterrorism research. In a letter Lewis' lawyer wrote to UGA president Michael Adams, obtained by the linkurl:Baltimore Examiner,;http://www.examiner.com/a-1345614~Scientist_s_attorney_says_UGA_spread_false_data_to_win_grants.html he said: "I can fully appreciate the ramifications it would have on the University of Georgia's bid to become a national center for agro-bioterrorism research if President Adams were to truthfully acknowledge the role his office has played in the fabrication of scientific data."


April 22, 2008

I agree 100% with David Lewis. Our work in Georgia from the mid 90s until 2000 showed us the exact same results and we cautioned many growers there not to "sludge" their farms regardless of the incentives. They insisted that State of Georgia assured them it was all safe and had plenty of test data, from UGA, to prove it. I was painted as the "bad-guy" some "hippie tree-hugger." \nEven though we had analytical data showing otherwise. Nice to see some vindication.
Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

April 22, 2008

There is an assumption in sciences today that if investigators get money from grants then the money and the investigation is pretty much by definition clean. The assumption is that grants do not give incentive to falsify data, twist results, or withold important information. \n\nThis is absolutely false today if it ever was true. Soros said that freedom requires alternatives. For academics receiving grants there are all too often no alternatives to speak of. \n\nAt this point, although it is without a formal study (which study would be very difficult to conduct) I believe that there is more misconduct from grant based research than there is from industrially funded research. I am quite certain that university chancellors, boards of regents provosts and academic deans are specifically selected from among those that willingly turn a blind eye to misconduct in favor of money. Demonstrating the blind eye is the primary (but secret) qualification for such positions. \n\nThere is so much money washing around the system it is phenomenal. Single universities are receiving half a billion to 1 billion dollars in a year all told. The impact of an academic scandal has huge fiscal impact. \n\nIt is time to clean this up. It won't be pretty, but it must be done, or science is going to lose what respect it has with the public. We must face the fact that our pet presumptions about ourselves are now false.

April 24, 2008

I would be very interested to see both sets of data...and to find out if any other sewer sludge cake data was taken during low moisture events...and if that lowers toxic levels...would be most interesting...this article brings up a good point aboot grant funding...if a researcher is being funded by say a certain university, or mega-corp, and they have an agenda aboot something, hidden or otherwise...what can be the logical outcome...example researchers in 1964 issued their famous report "that smokes are not good for your lungs." yet @ the same time big companies that sold smokes had their scientists claim smoking actually was a good thing...the point is funding of research projects now has to be totally looked at when reading a research article...published or unpublished...

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