ST. LOUIS -- The Environmental Protection Agency has begun conducting radiation testing at a baseball complex near a suburban St. Louis landfill where nuclear waste is buried, after private testing raised concerns.
Testing at the Bridgeton Municipal Athletic Complex began Monday. It is not known when results will be available.
Cold War-era nuclear waste is buried at West Lake Landfill, which is adjacent to the Bridgeton Landfill, where underground smoldering has created an odor problem. Many residents also worry about what could happen if the smoldering reaches the nuclear waste, though landfill operators say safeguards will prevent that from happening. Operators are spending millions of dollars build in blockades to keep the smoldering from the nuclear waste, and to address the smell.
The EPA testing comes after Bridgeton residents organized private tests that found high radiation levels in drainage areas near the ball fields. That caused a youth baseball tournament featuring nearly 100 teams to relocate elsewhere in St. Louis County in late April.
EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said the agency believes the fields are safe based on previous data, but wants to perform new tests “in the interest of resolving public concerns” raised by the private testing.
The EPA doesn’t know whether instruments used in the private tests were adequate or properly used, nor if the operators were properly trained, Brooks said in a statement.
“The EPA’s decision to screen reflects its interest in ensuring the scientific integrity of information used by the public to make decisions about activities in Bridgeton as it relates to the West lake Landfill Superfund Site,” Brooks said.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has been pushing the EPA for additional testing in the area around the landfill, and said in a statement that he was pleased with the announcement.
But Bridgeton Mayor Conrad Bowers downplayed concerns, maintaining that the fields are safe.
“The EPA has consistently said there are no health problems and they’ve done testing before,” Bowers said. “I encouraged the EPA to do additional screening that will help with their credibility. I’m pleased that they’ll do it.”
Uranium byproducts were dumped at the landfill in the 1970s. The EPA is in the process of determining whether the waste should be dug up and removed or permanently covered.