Jackson testing firm sues Ravenswood plant operator for lost contracts

By Lawrence Smith | May 6, 2011

RIPLEY – A Jackson County environmental testing firm wants a Marion County man to be held accountable for a whispering campaign he started about the reliability of their services.

Greenscape Analytical Laboratories has filed suit against Markus F. Mercer in Jackson Circuit Court. In their complaint filed April 7, Greenscape alleges Mercer, 47, of Farmington, while working as the chief operator of the Ravenswood wastewater treatment plant, made false statements to city and state officials about their testing methods that caused Greenscape to not only loose its contract with Ravenswood, but also other municipalities.

According to the suit, Greenscape entered into a contract with Ravenswood in 2000 to provide sampling and analysis of discharges from the city's waste and water treatment plant to keep in compliance with federal and state laws. As part of the agreement, the city leased space to Greenspace to use for its lab.

All was well until 2009. That is when Greenspace's owner, Marlene Edgell-Hammond, says she was informed by Mayor Lucy Herbert in April the city would be ending its contract with Greenspace, and giving it to a competitor for "'economic'" reasons.

When Herbert and other city officials refused to provide additional details on why they would be doing business with someone else, Hammond confronted the city council about it. On an unspecified date, they told her Mercer informed them "'there were a lot of errors and resamples" with her firm.

In addition to the city council, Hammond maintains Mercer made similar unfounded allegations against Greenspace to the state Department of Environmental Protection. In reviewing reports Mercer provided to her in May 2009, Hammond found a letter dated Sept. 22, 2008, signed by Herbert to DEP seeking relief from submitting testing results due to " 'difficulty'" with Greenspace's testing parameters.

After discovering the letter, Hammond asked DEP to review documentation Greenspace submitted to the city. Upon finding no errors in its testing methods, Greenspace maintains DEP then cited the city for failing to submit a viable testing result.

Also, Greenspace submitted its samples to DEP's Environmental Training Center. On an unspecified date they confirmed Greenspace's procedures were "in compliance with, and consistent with, industry standards and legal requirements."

According to its suit, Greenspace alleges it learned Mercer also informed city officials Greenspace was conducting "a lot of 'resampling'" due to errors in its testing. Mercer, Greenspace alleges, also told that to other municipalities where Greenspace had contracts resulting in losing them.

In their suit, Greenspace makes a single claim against Mercer for tortuous interference with a contract. Due to his actions, Greenspace alleges they have "suffered substantial economic damage."

They seek unspecified damages, and are represented by Charleston attorney Dana F. Eddy. The case is assigned to Judge Thomas C. Evans III.

Jackson Circuit Court case number 11-C-47

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