Why are Lafayette County Republicans interested in West Lake Landfill?

April 10, 2014  By Blythe Bernhard bbernhard@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8129

Republic Services recently launched the Coalition to Keep Us Safe, a lobbying group to promote keeping the nuclear waste buried at West Lake Landfill. The coalition’s hired spokeswoman Molly Teichman is from Warrensburg, one hour southeast of Kansas City. Teichman is a conversative blogger who is connected to the Lafayette County Republicans. State Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer is a Republican from Lafayette County and is an outspoken supporter of the coalition. Teichman and Kolkmeyer are longtime friends of Kay Hoflander, chair of the Lafayette County Republicans, who has distributed press releases for the coalition.

Hoflander’s son, Russ Knocke, is the director of field communications and public affairs for landfill owner Republic Services.

“My mom is a volunteer for a lot of righteous causes,” Knocke said. “Now that she’s become aware of some of the issues, she certainly doesn’t like the idea of waste being transported through the community.”

Hundreds of residents of Bridgeton, Maryland Heights and nearby areas have been pushing for years for the cleanup of West Lake Landfill. An underground fire at the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill has brought increased attention from Missouri’s U.S. senators, local environmental groups and the media. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reevaluating its 2008 decision to place a rock, clay and soil cap over West Lake because of public opposition and concerns about the fire, which could damage the cap.

Under the EPA’s Superfund site program, Republic Services is at least partly responsible for the cleanup costs at West Lake. One of the options the EPA is considering would involve the excavation and transport of the waste by covered rail to a nuclear storage facility in the western U.S. Nuclear waste from other sites downtown and near the airport has been hauled out of the St. Louis area this way since the 1990s.

The coalition against hauling the West Lake waste claims 30 supporters from across the state who are labeled concerned citizens, veterans or environmentalists. They are listed on the website only by a first name and last initial. The coalition’s spokeswoman Teichman said none of them can be interviewed because it is an emotional topic and they would be subject to ridicule.

Blythe Bernhard covers health and medicine for the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on twitter @blythebernhard

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