Activists relieved with ‘victory’ over Westlake Landfill clean-up

BRIDGETON, Mo. - After several years of anticipation from the community, the EPA has finally decided to act on the Westlake Landfill. A partial excavation is now planned.

Radioactive contamination has been at the landfill since the 1970s and has long been a big public concern.

The landfill, which houses toxic waste generated during the Manhattan Project in the early 1940s, was classified as a Superfund Site since 1990.

In 2010, a smoldering underground fire was even detected at the site. Efforts to do something about this from the community and lawmakers have finally paid off.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Thursday that 70 percent of the total radioactive material to be removed.

"I am pleased to announce a proposed remedy that will strategically excavate and remove, within five years, all the radioactive material that poses a risk to public health," Pruitt said. "Along with excavation, a permanent cap will be put in place that will provide additional protection to the community over the long-term."

Dawn Chapman, co-founder of Just Moms STL, has been fighting for the removal of the radioactive site for more than six years. She said the announcement is a big relief.

"Listening to them describe the waste and what it has done to our community is validation, but it's also heartbreaking," Chapman said.

For many years, local and state politicians could not get real answers from the EPA, until now.

"For us 70 percent it's pretty great," Chapman said. "We are trying to get them higher, but overall our battle was to get this removed and we won that battle today."

Pam Barker, an attorney from the firm Lewis Rice, has been practicing environmental law for 25 years. She wants to see details of the plan the EPA will deliver.

"The proof is in the details. We will have to feel those out, but it's good something here is finally being done," Barker said.

Bridgeton Landfill, a subsidiary of Republic Services, issued the following statement:

"We did not generate or deliver the waste to the property, and has been a model environmental steward and PRP throughout the Superfund program's process."

The excavation is expected to cost $236 million and take five years to implement. Three primary parties will cover that cost: Republic Services, Exelon/Cotter, and the US Department of Energy.