EPA: Radioactive waste at Bridgeton landfill poses no public danger

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on May 29, 2013 at 8:33 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 6:20 PM

(KMOV) – The Environmental Protection Agency says a March aerial survey of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton has determined radioactive waste buried there does not pose a danger to the public.

The agency scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference to focus on the results taken from the March 8 survey.

A plane was used during the survey to identify surface areas that emit gamma radiation. The aircraft was a specially equipped plane that can detect radiation and dangerous chemicals and has been used at the inauguration and the Super Bowl.\

The 200-acre landfill contains two areas where waste from World War II-era nuclear weapons manufacturing was buried in the 1970s.

But the survey “determined that radiologically-contaminated wastes buried there in the 1970s remain contained within secure, fenced areas of the Superfund site, and do not pose public health risks,” according to the report issued by the EPA.

The agency said it would hold a public meeting at Pattonville High School on June 25 to further discuss the survey’s results, as well as future plans for the West Lake Landfill.

Area residents have long been concerned about the radioactive waste illegally dumped at the landfill and were encouraged by the initial testing in March.

“At the meeting they said that they were going to send a plane and they did and that’s encouraging,” said resident Dawn Chapman. “That shows that they’re not just giving lip service.”

But environmentalist group Missouri Coalition for the Environment responded with concern. According to spokesperson Ed Smith, the EPA only tested for one of three types of radiation.

"The concerns we have [are that] the alpha and beta radiation can attach to particles such as dirt and blow off site," he said.  

The EPA responded by downplaying concerns. 

"The state of Missouri did a radiation survey just this month which did not detect any radiation around the perimeter of the site, above background levels," said EPA project manager Dan Gravatt. 

The report was released as operators of the landfill next door have been removing six pipes they believe will help eliminate a strong odor that is bothering residents who live nearby.

But a group of concerned citizens announced work being done to fix the smoldering deep within the site isn’t working.

The group, called Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said a fire continues to move toward the radioactive waste. They said it has moved 200 feet closer in the last three months.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring the hot spots at the landfill, and posting the temperature readings online.

Organizers are now saying Republic Services has failed in taking the lead to fix the problem and it’s now time for the state and federal government to take over.

Republic Services responded to the concerns by releasing a statement.

“At currently measured rates of movement it would take more than 10 years (for the smoldering) to reach the edge of the north quarry,” the statement read.

The pipe-removal process, expected to last through mid-June, is also expected to make the smell worse for about two weeks. Eventually, the company will put a plastic cap over the landfill.

The company has offered to relocate about 270 households within a mile of the landfill while the work proceeds.

Still, others said they would remain in their homes for fear of theft.

A spokesperson for Republic Services said security should not be an issue. Bridgeton police officers have been be keeping an extra watch on the three neighborhoods involved in the voluntary evacuation.

Last week, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and Bridgeton Police Chief Don Hood confirmed reaffirmed their commitment to provide extra security.

 

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