The latest in a periodical series that looks back on groundbreaking, news, horror and fun events in government history.

Two things are true for warehouses: working in them can be tedious, and they tend to be full of boxes, equipment, and other materials that can be moved and arranged in creative ways.

These two factors came to the fore in 2013 at the Environmental Protection Agency, when GovExec revealed the news that contract workers have built secret “caves for men” in a cave warehouse that the agency rents in Landover, Maryland, outside of Washington, DC

The story began the way a great deal of journalism does: with a reporter who delves into the details of one of the thousands of government reports published each year by federal agencies, congressional committees, and independent observers. In this case, the reporter was Eric Katz, and the document he revealed was an audit of the EPA’s chief inspector of warehouse operations.

IG found that the contractors used partitions, screens and accumulated boxes to hide secret rooms from security cameras in the 70,000-square-foot facility. The EPA had leased the warehouse used to store inventory from the General Services Administration for $ 750,000 a year.

The warehouses were secret for some reason – they contained TVs, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and sofas. They were also provided with personal belongings, including photos, pin-ups, calendars, clothes, books, magazines and videos.

However, contract workers did not live exactly on the lap of luxury. Indeed, it seems that the warehouse is in fact the object of a Superfund. Its “disgusting conditions” include corrosion, parasite feces and “spread” mold, according to IG.

The story quickly spread nationwide. ABC News took up this, noting that the EPA issued an order suspending the contractor following the IG report. IN New York Daily News marveled at the weightlifting equipment in a makeshift fitness center in the warehouse. In a story categorized as “Strange News”, HuffPost reported that the EPA “cleaned up a lot of confusion, but this one is like no other.”

The EPA quickly moved on to review operations in other warehouses and found no similar problems, Katz said later. “The conditions of concern identified in Landover’s warehouse do not exist in any other agency warehouse or storage facility,” an agency spokesman said, “and we will ensure that these conditions are not repeated at EPA’s facility.”

Buzzkills at IG’s office promised to do their own inspection, but evidence of systematic laziness at the agency never emerged. Of course, that was nine years ago and there are many state-controlled warehouses. So who knows how many hidden shelters there may be in federal facilities today?

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