The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) announced Tuesday it will test a Bridgeton home for radioactive contamination.
The homeowners filed a lawsuit last week claiming significant amounts of dust contaminated with thorium was found in multiple places in their house. The lawsuit goes on to say independent scientists were able to determine the contamination is the same as that found in the nearby West Lake Landfill.
On Tuesday, EPA Region 7 Administrator Mark Hague said agency officials will test inside and outside the home to verify the lawsuit's claims. If EPA tests confirm the contamination, Hague says a plan will then be put into place to test more properties near the landfill.
No timetable has been set for testing the Bridgeton home because Hague says his office has not yet received the data cited in the lawsuit.
"We want to get that data so we can proceed with our own sampling efforts and have that inform what we do," said Hague.
Karen Nickel, part of the landfill watchdog group Just Moms STL, is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming tests.
"We would hope that they do the testing and get the results as soon as possible and they get this out to the community and there's no stall tactic or other reasons that they can't disclose the information," said Nickel.
In a separate announcement Tuesday, Hague said his agency will have to delay a record of decision regarding the future of the landfill. That decision was expected by the end of the year.
Hague blamed the delay on not having all the data required from the potentially responsible parties, which include the Cotter Corporation, Rock Road Industries, Inc, landfill owner Republic Services and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Now, the Agency says it has no time frame for how long the ruling will take.
Possible remedies for the landfill include removing the radioactive waste, leaving it in place and capping it with concrete or building a barrier between the waste and an underground smoldering in the neighboring Bridgeton Landfill.
Nickel and other members of her group have waited years for the decision and they're getting anxious.
"(I'm) hoping that it's delayed for the right reasons because they want to get it right and they want to do a good job and they don't want to have to revisit it," said Nickel.
"We need to ensure that we get good, sound science and engineering information to make a decision," said Hague.
Moving forward, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanders will assist E.P.A. officials by making available Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program experts from across the country who will review technical documents and help form a final remedy decision.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and Second District Congresswoman Ann Wagner released statements in response to the delay.
Stenger's statement said:
“It is extremely disappointing and hard to believe that there is yet another delay in EPA’s cleanup of the West Lake Landfill. EPA has had jurisdiction over the site in Bridgeton for more than 25 years and during that time area residents have continued to live with the fears of radioactive contamination. It is time for a permanent solution that will remove these fears and improve the lives of families who have been dealing with this for far too long.”
Wagner's statement said:
“It is reprehensible that the EPA has continued to drag their feet and not take responsibility for cleanup at the West Lake Landfill. Today's announcement only reinforces why it is critical we transfer cleanup of the site from the EPA to the Army Corps. Washington bureaucrats are out of touch and have failed our community. I talk to the families affected by West Lake regularly about their safety and well-being, which is exactly why I will continue to fight for a safe and responsible resolution."