(KMOV) – A new safety concern at the closed landfills in Bridgeton involves radioactive dust.
Both landfills are on St. Charles Rock Road, west of Interstate 270. The Bridgeton landfill with an underground fire sits beside the Westlake Landfill where radioactive waste is buried.
Tests start this week to prepare for digging a trench to keep the fire from reaching the radioactive waste but those tests could stir up radioactive grass and dirt.
The EPA said there is no risk to the area residents but not everyone is confident it won’t become a risk.
The methods for clearing tall grass and weeds could throw a lot of dust in the air which could be potentially radioactive.
North of the Bridgeton Landfill is where the firebreak trench will be dug out on the Westlake Landfill. A section of it is where radioactive waste was dumped and workers will have to determine where it is safe to dig.
"The radioactive waste in this landfill sits anywhere from the surface level to 10 to 20 feet deep," said Ed Smith with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
Workers will have to clear brush to make a path for the testing equipment and could stir up a lot of grass and dust in the process.
"What we're concerned about immediately is the workers and surrounding communities breathing in radioactive dust after the use of a brush hog,” said Smith.
After cutting brush, workers will insert pipes into the ground containing sensors like a Geiger counter to test for levels of radio activity to find the safest spot to put the trench.
Workers will be wearing monitors to make sure they are not exposed to unsafe levels. The EPA said the workers will use a spray of water to minimize the dust.
"The contractors will be using wetting techniques; they'll be keeping the area moist as they do that as necessary. So we do not anticipate that there is going to be any particular risk posed to the public," said Chris Whitley with the EPA.
Due to the EPA having to be out in the landfill to monitor the radiation testing, the government shutdown delayed the start of the week. Between the times it will take to carefully clear the brush, the testing and weather delays, this could take until December to complete.