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Whistleblower Suit Alleges Leavenworth Defrauded Government, Dumped Waste

A former overseer of Leavenworth’s wastewater treatment plant says solid waste was dumped by the truckload onto the ground behind the plant and eventually washed into the Missouri River.

The incendiary allegation was contained in a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed Monday. The suit was filed in federal court in October by Michele Coffman, a former assistant superintendent of the plant who resigned in October 2013.

Coffman alleges the city submitted false claims to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for 2011 flood repairs of a city water pipe and bridge. She contends both were damaged before the flood.

She also claims the city dumped waste in a creek behind the plant and that contaminants in the creek were measured at 2,000 times allowable federal levels. The creek runs into the Missouri River.

And, she says, the city dumped waste atop the ground behind the plant, which sits near several retail outlets, including a grocery store.

Neither Coffman nor her attorney could be reached for comment.

Melissa Bower, a spokeswoman for the city, said she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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