Experts: Bridgeton landfills could pose serious health, safety risks

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 6:20 PM

(KMOV) –The health risks from two landfills in Bridgeton are worse than what the public has been told, according to a new study conducted by two professors at Washington University.

During a press conference held inside the Machinists Union in Bridgeton, Dr. Bob Criss, a Washington University professor of earth and planetary sciences, said the public’s been misinformed about the landfills and the dangers they pose.

Criss was joined by Washington University Professor Peter Anderson, executive director of the Center for a Competitive Waste Industry.

The landfills are side by side. One is the old Bridgeton sanitary landfill, which has an underground fire. Efforts to deal with it are the reason behind a rancid smell it’s been giving off.

The other landfill is the Westlake Landfill, where radioactive waste was buried in the 1970s. But Criss said the Environmental Protection Agency’s own documents show they do not understand what radioactive material is really buried here.

“You’ve got to know what the problem is before you can deal with the problem,” said Criss. “I’ve read, like thousands of pages of NRC and EPA reports ‘til my eyes glazed over and they’re extraordinarily uninformative.”

Criss said his study found there is a risk that radioactive material could contaminate groundwater and eventually get into the Missouri River and then the Mississippi River, a major source of drinking water.

He also told News 4 the underground wall separating the two landfills would not be able to stop the fire from eventually spreading to the radioactive material, which could lead to an explosion.

“If  you have a combination of that fast moving fire and you have methane explosions caused there is supposedly jet fuel there, if you have a significant explosion, you can have the conditions for a dirty bomb,” said Anderson.

News 4 spoke with a representative of the company over the phone. The company does not call it a fire but an exothermic reaction and that they’re not uncommon at landfills. The company says the fire is only moving 1.3 feet a month and they’re confident the measure they’re taking will keep it from ever reaching the radioactive waste.

If the fire reached the radioactive waste, it would have the potential of releasing radioactive smoke and gas into the atmosphere, posing a major environmental disaster.

 

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