by Blythe Bernhard
The owners of the radioactive West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton will place a mesh barrier inside the fence along St. Charles Rock Road to capture “windblown solid waste” during an upcoming dig, according to an agreement effective today.
A mesh barrier on the western border of the landfill is part of the pre-construction plan for an isolation barrier between the landfill and the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill which is smoldering below ground. A settlement agreement effective today between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and landfill owners Bridgeton Landfill, LLC and Rock Road Industries, subsidiaries of Republic Services, outlines several tasks that need to be completed before construction on the isolation barrier starts. The settlement agreement does not include plans for the location or the placement of the isolation barrier.
A work plan is due in 30 days to show how contractors for the landfill owners will build the mesh barrier, clear any obstacles from the surface of the landfill, keep birds away and monitor the air for safety prior to the start of construction. The EPA also plans to monitor the air in and around the site to check for radioactive particles. The landfill owners can be fined up to $20,000 a day for not complying with the agreement.
“We think the schedule agreed to by EPA will allow work on the isolation barrier to proceed quickly and safely,” said Richard Callow, a spokesman for the landfill’s owners.
The EPA released a statement that reads in part: “Under the agreement, EPA must review these plans, and may approve, disapprove, require revisions to, or modify them, in whole or in part. EPA takes these reviews very seriously, and will not hesitate to direct changes, if necessary, so that the community remains safe.”
The landfill’s owners are responsible for paying for the work under the agreement.
“In the case of West Lake Landfill, this ensures that as work begins to prepare for the barrier construction, the public will not be stuck with the bill,” reads the EPA statement.
The agreement comes days after a longtime Bridgeton resident sued Republic Services on claims that radiation from the landfill has spread to nearby properties, potentially affecting the health of residents and workers.
A main area of concern is the ball fields at the Bridgeton Municipal Athletic Complex less than a mile from the radioactive landfill. St. Charles Rock Road, where the mesh barrier will be installed, runs between the landfill and the ball fields.
The EPA has said that contamination is contained in the West Lake site based on results from a radiation-detecting plane that flew over the area last year.