by Blythe Bernhard
The group Just Moms StL received from the Finney Law Office today a GammaPal device that can detect radiation in soil. A main area of concern is the ball fields at the Bridgeton Municipal Athletic Complex less than a mile from the radioactive landfill.
“Nobody knows for sure if it’s safe for kids to be on it right now,” said Dawn Chapman, one of the co-founders of Just Moms StL.
Daniel Finney Jr. donated the machine “to provide frustrated residents an opportunity to answer questions for themselves and to force a resolution to the controversy of contamination outside the landfill.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said that the radioactive contamination is contained in the West Lake site where waste generated by uranium processing was dumped in the 1970s. The agency has not indicated any soil testing has been done outside the landfill’s boundaries. Dust from nearby areas, including a residence and the Bridgeton ball fields, was tested by the state last year and found to be at acceptable levels.
A spokesman for Republic Services released a statement Friday that said “EPA has determined and recently confirmed that nobody can be exposed to radiation from West Lake outside the barbed-wire fence that surrounds the site.”
On Friday, Finney filed a lawsuit against Republic Services and others on behalf of a Bridgeton man who has lived near the landfill for more than 30 years. The lawsuit claims radiation from the landfill has spread to nearby properties, potentially affecting the health of residents and workers.
The lawsuit is based on preliminary information from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. Ed Smith of the coalition said tests on soil samples taken this year from various sites outside the landfill indicate high levels of radiation. Smith declined to name the test sites and the exact results.
About a month ago, Just Moms StL had four soil samples tested from the athletic complex. The results did not show elevated levels of radiation. The information from the environmental coalition and the lawsuit led the residents to pursue more in-depth soil testing. The group also plans to install two $500 air monitors to check for radioactive particles in the Spanish Village neighborhood.
The athletic complex is owned and operated by the city of Bridgeton. John Bell, Bridgeton’s athletic supervisor, said he didn’t know of any soil testing at the complex.
“Should any testing be conducted without prior written approval by the city of Bridgeton, it would be considered trespassing,” he said.