ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The regional head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday assured Missouri's attorney general that progress is being made on remediation of a St. Louis County landfill, where underground smoldering is occurring just a few hundred yards from buried nuclear waste.
EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks sent a letter to Attorney General Chris Koster noting that a construction agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers will soon be complete for an "isolation barrier" at West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. The barrier will seek to provide reassurance that the smoldering will never make it to the nuclear site.
"We will continue to coordinate and communicate with you and your colleagues in the State of Missouri as we work to accomplish our shared goal of protecting the health of all Missourians," Brooks wrote.
Brooks' letter was in response to a letter Koster sent Tuesday urging the EPA to move more quickly at West Lake. Koster's letter came a year after he sued the landfill owner, Republic Services, alleging violation of environmental laws.
In addition to the nuclear waste concern, the smoldering has for several months caused an odor so strong at times that residents living nearby complain they can't go out of their homes.
Koster said in his letter that additional radioactive material has been found closer to the smoldering. As a result, he wrote to the agency, Republic's efforts so far "do not address the entire problem."
"The possible relocation of radioactive material ... highlights the need for EPA and Republic to accelerate their surveying and engineering efforts to ensure the fire in the south and radioactive material in the north never meet," Koster's letter said.
Koster said in a statement on Friday that he appreciated Brooks' fast response.
"We hope to hear soon that EPA has finalized its agreement with the Corps of Engineers and is ready to announce a construction schedule for the isolation barrier," Koster said.
Republic Services is responsible for the cost of the cleanup.
Richard Callow, spokesman for the landfill, said earlier this week that the company is "committed to the rapid construction of an isolation barrier, once a plan by regulatory authorities has been approved." Callow did not respond to a message seeking comment on Friday.
Cold War-era nuclear waste was dumped at the landfill about 40 years ago. The EPA oversees West Lake as a Superfund site. Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is keeping tabs on the smoldering.
"I believe that continuing to coordinate state and federal work will best accomplish our mutual goal to keep the public protected from environmental contaminants and nuisances," Brooks wrote.