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More Damage Control for Boca-Based Prison Operator

At least the latest public-relations nightmare doesn't involve another prison riot. The GEO Group of Boca Raton is now catching flak in the Pacific Northwest, where it began expanding a Tacoma, Wash., prison, allegedly without bothering to tell the state. A seemingly benign oversight, except for the fact that the soil being moved is highly polluted, having been the site of a coal gasification plant.

The company group was required to notify the state if it planned to do any construction on the site that could cause a release of contamination to the environment, said Joyce Mercuri of ecology's Toxics Cleanup Program.

"The GEO Group did not inform us about the expansion," Mercuri said.

Pablo Paez, a company spokesman who's been awfully busy the past few weeks, denies that the expansion violated state regulations -- a claim that's undermined by the state's statement that the GEO Group has agreed to work with it to resolve the environmental concerns.

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Thomas Francis

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