(KMOV.com) – Concerns surfaced Monday that the Bridgeton Landfill could pose a risk to planes at Lambert Airport just a couple miles away.
Airport officials are worried large flocks of birds could show up when a huge trench is dug as a firebreak to stop an underground fire from reaching buried radioactive waste.
Nearly everyone remembers the miracle landing on the Hudson River after geese flew into both engines of Flight 1549, but not every bird strike ends so well.
It was Lambert Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge who first raised the concerns that fresh digging at the landfill will expose smelly trash and attract birds.
The landfill is only about two miles from the end of one of the runways and almost directly in the flight path of planes that take off and land from the west.
Retired TWA pilot Mel Burkart remembered a time a Canada goose struck a plane he was flying several years ago.
“It knocked out all the lights in the airplane and scared me half to death,” he said.
Pilots and airports are well aware of the dangers posed by birds.
Last August, a bird strike left a gaping hole on a united flight from Denver to Dallas, and in November a bird blew out a winshield on a private plane.
Even smaller birds can be a danger.
“One is not a hazard. 50, when you fly through a flock, would certainly be a hazard,” Burkart said.
That’s the concern with planned work at the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills. Residents don't see flocks of seagulls there now because they’ve been closed almost a decade. But digging up buried trash to create a firebreak could attract big flocks of birds like active landfills do.
The potential for large numbers of birds, so close to Lambert is the concern.
“If they were to be startled and a huge mass of birds rose at one time and the airplane flew through it could be disasterous,” said Burkart.
Landfill owner Republic Services declined a request for an interview on camera but released a statement, saying:
The landfill has been next to the airport for a long time. Bridgeton Landfill will continue work with the airport authority - and with local, state and federal experts - to ensure that the planned excavation proceeds safely.
Some airports have used cannons and other noise makers to scare away birds.
It is unknown if those methods will be needed until the digging begins and officials can see how many, if any, birds are attracted.