Bridgeton landfill situation far from resolved, raising concerns in community

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by Craig Cheatham / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 5:20 PM

BRIDGETON, Il (KMOV.com) -- The smell from the Bridgeton landfill is overwhelming, and residents are saying it affects the community.

“It’s in between like a skunk and rotten food,” said resident Tony Forster. “It’s gross, it’s disgusting.” Forster lives only a few hundred yards away from the landfill, and says the odor is taking its toll on the real estate market.

“There’s a couple of houses for sale,” he said. “A couple of my buddies are looking to buy a house, and I said, ‘hey look at these houses.’ They said, ‘we don’t want to live here, it smells too bad.’”

The industrial air fresheners at the landfill have had little impact on the stench. Republic Services, the landfill’s owner, says it’s not going to get better anytime soon.

“We have been working as quickly as possible,” said Susan David with the company. “We know that’s frustrating for neighbors and we apologize for the odors that we have.”

The smell started about two years ago. Republic found that the temperature inside one area of the landfill had increased dramatically- much faster than normal- and even though there was no imminent threat of a fire, the company says it took the risk seriously.

It began drilling to release more of the gas with the goal of reducing the heat, and pumping the gas through pipes that took it into a plant that eliminates it.

The company says it spent $10 million on the effort last year alone. Republic insists it has been focused on a solution, but critics say it has failed to share important information with the community and the Pattonville Fire Protection District, which is literally sitting right next to it.

“We were made aware of this seven or eight months ago,” said Pattonville Assistant Fire Chief Matt Lavanchy. “At the time I felt like we were very late in the game to be notified about it.”

Lavanchy said he hadn’t even been provided the landfill’s emergency contingency plan by the company, the Department of Natural Resources or the EPA.

He finally got a copy last Fall, though he says it was basically worthless if there was a fire burning in the massive toxic trash pile, saying he doesn’t believe it is adequate.

Now, Pattonville Fire, the DNR and the EPA are all working with Republic Services on the best plan for the landfill, and could have an emergency response plan within a few weeks.

The DNR has agreed to provide indepedent monitoring at the site for the first time, but it’s still a huge challenge, and one that appears to have a long way to go. 

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