BRIDGETON, Mo. - New information released Tuesday paints a clearer picture of the growing problems at the radioactive West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton.
NewsChannel 5 got a look at a map of a portion of the landfill known as Area 1. It shows where the Environmental Protection Agency found new radioactive "hot spots" during ground testing late last year. The tests were being done to find a place to build a barrier between the waste and an underground fire in the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill.
Many of the hot spots were outside the area where radioactive material was thought to be and some were outside a fence built to protect workers.
Robert Criss, a professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University, says the level of contamination at some of the hot spots appears to be "significant."
Criss is also challenging the way the radiation levels were gathered. He says the EPA's machines were calibrated too close to the landfill and the hot spots could be even more radioactive than the numbers show.
"It's simply absurd and this is a standard ruse by potentially responsible parties. To establish background you have to get away from a contaminated area. It's a no-brainer," he said.
Criss says there's a real chance the radioactive waste may be spreading through groundwater.
Environmental groups like the Missouri Coalition for the Environment are calling on the EPA to do ground tests throughout the West Lake Landfill in order to identify other potential hot spots and to tell how close the waste may be to the Bridgeton Landfill fire.
The EPA released the following statement Wednesday in response to the Dr. Criss' findings:
1. EPA Region 7 disagrees with a number of Dr. Criss's assertions regarding this data and how it was collected.
2. First, neither the GCPT (ground probe) data, nor any of the core sampling data collected to date, has completed the quality assurance process to most fully assure its legitimacy and accuracy. The data on which Dr. Criss appears to be basing his assertions was both partial and incomplete. It would be premature to base any conclusions on such limited information.
3. No groundwater data collected to date suggests there is any migration of radiologically-impacted material off this site.
4. The radiation screening equipment was NOT calibrated on site. It was, in fact, calibrated by labs located many miles away from the site. Control checks of this equipment were performed on the site, using known quantities of radioactive material to ensure that the equipment was reading properly.
5. The engineering survey being performed by contractors hired by Republic Services and overseen by EPA is proceeding as planned, and is succeeding at its main objectives: to identify the presence of any radiologically-impacted material that may exist within the survey area, and gather data that will inform the design and placement of an isolation barrier.
Here's a statement from a Bridgeton Landfill spokesperson:
"The results, which were reported last month, remind us that there has been an extended delay in acting in enacting a final solution. Had the material been encapsulated as proposed in the original Record of Decision, it would have covered the area where the additional radiologically impacted material has been detected, and the design investigation prior to construction of the cap would have detected the additional RIM. If needed, the solution could have been extended to encapsulate any additional subsurface areas where RIM was detected. If anything, the findings of the GCPT highlight the complexity and risks of excavation. To excavate this material someone would in essence be removing a three-story building of trash to reach a 2-3-foot layer of RIM that is not detectable at the surface and which EPA has said does not pose a current health risk. What we should be focusing on is ensuring that this deeply buried material continues to pose no risk to the public, not increasing risk through excavation."