Environmentalists urge against landfill settlement

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by JIM SALTER

Associated Press

Posted on May 13, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 5:20 PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- An environmental group on Monday urged Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to get more input from Bridgeton area residents before settling his lawsuit against the operators of a local landfill has caused a stink because of its burning garbage.

Underground smoldering at the Bridgeton Landfill near Lambert Airport in St. Louis County has emitted a foul odor—an intense smell of burning garbage—for the past several months. In addition to the smell, health concerns have been raised. Air testing by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in February showed a potential short-term risk from high levels of hydrogen sulfide, and previous testing showed benzene levels near the landfill’s property line that would be unhealthy with long-term exposure.

Environmentalists also worry about nuclear waste buried just hundreds of feet away from the smoldering site, although regulators say there is little chance it could reach the nuclear waste.

In March, Koster sued the landfill operator, Republic Services of Phoenix, citing violations of state environmental laws. It wasn’t immediately clear if a settlement was imminent. A spokeswoman for Koster declined to say if a settlement was imminent but said a news conference to update the public could take place Tuesday. A spokesman for the company, Richard Callow, declined to discuss the prospects of a settlement.

But last week, Republic Services announced an offer to pay for temporary housing for anyone who lives within a one-mile radius of the landfill, or roughly 270 households. The offer is for the period May 20 to June 14, when the smell is expected to worsen temporarily as concrete pipes at the landfill are removed as part of the remediation effort.

Officials with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said the radius needs to be expanded to at least five miles around the landfill. Otherwise, it would exclude “thousands of people who have become prisoners in their own homes,” said Ed Smith of the coalition.

Smith said the company is trying to cut its financial losses by limiting the radius—losses that he said could reach several million dollars.

“People impacted by the landfill deserve a seat at the negotiating table,” Smith said.

Callow said the landfill operators are “committed to taking all action we can to control odors during the work and to keep the community updated on the work and ongoing monitoring.”

   The underground fire is about 1,200 feet from where Cold War era nuclear waste is buried in an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site known as West Lake Landfill. Koster said in March that there was very little chance that the smoldering garbage could endanger the nuclear waste, and the EPA concurred. Callow said monitoring has shown that the nuclear waste is not threatened.

 

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