ST. LOUIS - A subsidiary of Republic Services, owner of the Bridgeton Landfill, helped pay to form a new coalition seeking what it calls a "Common sense solution for Westlake Landfill."
The Coalition to Keep Us Safe, is funded by Bridgeton Landfill LLC and Rock Road Industries, Inc. The organization launched Wednesday and its mission is to advocate the encasing of radioactive materials at the West Lake landfill.
The Coalition believes encasing the material under a 5-foot structure is the safest and quickest, as opposed to excavation of the radioactive material and moving it to a hazardous waste site.
To learn more about the coalition, visit their website.
Wednesday also marked one year since Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against Republic Services alleging a series of environmental law violations relating to events at the West Lake Landfill.
Koster updated reporters on what is happening to insure an underground smoldering event at the Bridgeton Landfill cannot reach thousands of tons of radiological material sitting in the adjacent Westlake Landfill.
In regards to creating a barrier wall that would separate the smoldering event from the nuclear waste, Koster said, "Within 90 days we are going to see a construction agreement entered into with the Army Corp of Engineers. We will see a construction order served upon Republic. We will see the beginning of on-site construction activity in early May."
Koster added, "This entire case is divided into two main areas of concern. You have the odor concern and we have the health and safety concern that is dictated by the smoldering event moving toward the radiological material. We have put the emphasis on addressing the health and safety concerns first, then we will look at denominating the damages in a monetary sense."
Two weeks ago, citing tests suggesting that radioactive material has spread between the West Lake and Bridgeton Landfills, Koster sent a letter Tuesday imploring the Environmental Protection Agency to expedite its actions.
The letter calls for the EPA and Republic, the landfill's owner, to speed up their efforts to identify the extent of radioactive contamination at the Bridgeton Landfill, cede control over the site to the federal government and build an isolation barrier.
Here's how Koster began the letter:
"One year ago, my Office filed a lawsuit against Republic Services alleging a series of environmental-law violations relating to events at the West Lake landfill complex. The suit seeks to accomplish two primary objectives. First, the suit aims to hold Republic responsible for the alleged violations of applicable environmental laws. Second, and more importantly, the suit aims to compel Republic to move swiftly in preventing the subsurface fire in the south quarry of the Bridgeton landfill from migrating northward and reaching the radioactive material deposited in Operable Unit 1 (OU-1). Over the past year, Republic has taken steps to slow the spread of the fire, but recent developments suggest that these measures do not address the entire problem. It now appears that radioactive material from OU-1 may be spread more widely than originally thought and may be present in the north quarry of the Bridgeton landfill. Republic and EPA must act aggressively to address this apparent relocation"
A spokesperson for the landfill claims that Republic is waiting for a plan by regulatory authorities to be approved before they start building the isolation barrier:
"The safety of both sites is our highest priority. While site surveys are ongoing, we are committed to the rapid construction of an isolation barrier, once a plan by regulatory authorities has been approved."
Last week, an article in the Wall Street Journal alleged that the PA had downplayed concerns about radioactive waste in the West Lake Landfill – which has prompted numerous local legislators to speak out, asking the agency to take action.
You can read Koster's full letter below:
Environmental Protection Agency
11201 Renner Blvd.
Lenexa, KS 66219
Dear Administrator Brooks,
One year ago, my Office filed a lawsuit against Republic Services alleging a series of environmental-law violations relating to events at the West Lake landfill complex. The suit seeks to accomplish two primary objectives. First, the suit aims to hold Republic responsible for the alleged violations of applicable environmental laws. Second, and more importantly, the suit aims to compel Republic to move swiftly in preventing the subsurface fire in the south quarry of the Bridgeton landfill from migrating northward and reaching the radioactive material deposited in Operable Unit 1 (OU-1). Over the past year, Republic has taken steps to slow the spread of the fire, but recent developments suggest that these measures do not address the entire problem. It now appears that radioactive material from OU-1 may be spread more widely than originally thought and may be present in the north quarry of the Bridgeton landfill. Republic and EPA must act aggressively to address this apparent relocation.
Last fall, after initial reports indicated that radioactive material was found in sections of OU-1 that were previously thought to be unaffected by radiological deposits, EPA agreed to order a comprehensive survey of the area to determine the true boundary of radioactive contamination. We understand preliminary tests have found radioactive material not only outside the originally identified "radioactive perimeter," but beyond the southern edge of OU-1 itself, into the north quarry of the Bridgeton landfill.
Expedited radiological testing: The possible relocation of radioactive material from OU-1 into the Bridgeton landfill highlights the need for EPA and Republic to accelerate their surveying and engineering efforts to ensure the fire in the south and radioactive material in the north never meet. In particular, the need for a comprehensive remapping of the West Lake site to definitively identify the extent of OU-1's radioactive contamination has never been clearer. We ask that EPA and Republic expedite their work to complete this project as quickly as possible.
Federal authority over OU-1's radiological deposits: The entire West Lake / Bridgeton landfill complex was long-ago designated a Superfund site under federal control. To date, EPA has limited its exercise of regulatory jurisdiction to the defined Operable Units at West Lake, and it deferred its oversight of the remainder of the Bridgeton landfill to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. But the developing information indicating the spread of OU-1's radioactive material suggests this division of legal authority may require a change. EPA expressly deferred its legal authority regarding solid-waste facility closure and post-closure of the Bridgeton landfill to the State only because that portion was thought to be untainted by OU-1's radioactive waste. It is the federal government—whether EPA exclusively or EPA working in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers—that is vested with the legal authority and the resources to direct remediation of sites containing OU-1's radioactive waste. If radioactive material from OU-1 is confirmed to be located in the Bridgeton landfill, legal authority over the contaminated site must shift back from the State to the federal government.
Rapid construction of isolation barrier: Last September, Republic announced its intention to build an isolation barrier to separate the radiological material in OU-1 from the smoldering fire in the southern part of the Bridgeton landfill. Over six months have passed, yet construction of the barrier still has not begun. Although we acknowledge that essential surveying is still underway, the ongoing site testing need not prevent construction from commencing, at least in part. As EPA completes its radiological profile of the site, we ask that it also finish its review of Republic's proposed plan to construct the isolation barrier and, upon identifying a sound design, direct that construction begin without delay.
The State's highest priority is to protect the health and safety of its residents. Even if circumstances require that EPA reassert its legal authority over the entire West Lake site, the State will continue its work in validating data, offering comments to remedial plans, and providing whatever other support may be needed. We look forward to working with EPA and Republic in taking the steps necessary to isolate the radioactive waste from the landfill fire and thereby give the people in Bridgeton and its surrounding communities the security and peace of mind they deserve.
cc: Bill Beck, General Counsel, Republic Services