Ted Owens, a Salt Lake City-based agent for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, often joined by local authorities or other law enforcement officers, hs taken on a string of eco-crimes — from toxic-waste dumping to shoddy asbestos removal to doctoring of pollution records, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Most recently, his work led to grand jury indictments against a company that allegedly misused a deadly pesticide blamed for the deaths of two girls, aged 4 and 15 months.
Says Owens: “We have missions that we're on to promote justice and to promote environmental compliance and to make sure our air is clean to breathe and our water is clean to drink and our soil is safe to grow things in and to play in for kids. It's a big deal.” He notes that the nation's current system of environmental enforcement relies heavily on a kind of honor code, in which industry reports on its pollution levels and even its violations. That doesn't always work, and that's where the EPA's criminal enforcement division comes in. The little-known branch of EPA investigates crimes, gathers evidence, and nabs environmental outlaws.