St. Louis On The Air
TUE MARCH 25, 2014
There is increasing concern about the status of two landfills in Bridgeton as a slow-moving underground fire in the Bridgeton Landfill edges towards the adjacent West Lake Landfill. Radioactive waste left over from World War II was illegally dumped at West Lake in the 1970s.
Now it’s believed similar material is included in the Bridgeton Landfill and in the path of the fire. A plan is being considered to build a barrier to prevent the fire from spreading from one landfill to the other. Residents and environmentalists are concerned that the area, and perhaps communities miles away, are threatened by a potential toxic contamination above and below ground.
The underground fire at times emits a strong odor. Residents of the area report that the smell causes headaches, nose bleeds, nausea and asthma attacks.
There are many players in the situation, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the radioactive waste at West Lake, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), which oversees the air and water quality of Bridgeton, and Republic Services, which owns the Bridgeton Landfill and is listed as a “potentially responsible party” of the West Lake Landfill.
St. Louis Public Radio Science Reporter Véronique LaCapra has been covering the story, and joined host Don Marsh in studio to help moderate the discussion. For more background information, see her previous reporting on the topic.
Also joining the conversation was Ed Smith, Safe Energy Director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Russ Knocke, public affairs director at Republic Services, and Dawn Chapman, a resident who lives near the landfills.