Koster calls on EPA to help put out underground landfill fire

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BRIDGETON, MO (KTVI) – In the midst of the Cardinals - Cubs baseball feud, a Chicago Tribune newspaper columnist slapped St. Louis for a potential environmental disaster:  an underground fire smoldering toward radioactive waste in Bridgeton.

The Missouri Attorney General again called on the EPA to step up to the plate.

“Welcome Cardinals to Wrigley Field by Smelling Nice (St. Louis Has a Garbage Fire Problem)” – read the headline the headline from by Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune.

MO Attorney General, Chris Koster, hardly seemed to consider it fodder for St. Louis versus Chicago newspaper columns.

“There are aspects of this situation that are at this point beyond human ability to solve them.  No one I am aware of knows how to put out the fire.  That is the single biggest challenge we face right now,” Koster said.

An underground fire at Bridgeton Landfill has been smoldering for years with radioactive waste buried at West Lake Landfill next door.

A recently revealed St. Louis County emergency response plan noted potential for radioactive fallout with no warning.  At least 4 area school districts have now followed up with letters home to parents noting plans to either evacuate students or shelter students in the schools and close off air intakes to limit exposure.

Koster is suing the landfills’ owner, Republic Services, to force a cleanup.

Radioactive waste had already contaminated trees and water beyond the landfills’ perimeter, Koster said.

“It’s no longer just underneath the landfill itself.  It has migrated through the air and groundwater and we have expert testimony that we’re going to present that shows that,” he said.

A statement from Republic called radioactive fallout a “remote scenario” and said the landfills are “safe and intensely monitored”.

An update from the EPA Wednesday last week said there would be drilling for soil samples in December to figure out how best to proceed with a cleanup of WWII era uranium left-over’s that were illegally dumped there in the 70’s;  including digging up some or all of it.

Still, Koster pressed the EPA for more.

“Give St. Louis some type of an answer regarding what happens when the smoldering event, the fire, meets the (radioactive waste) … if we have this thing covered with a thick plastic tarp we can capture all the radon gas or whether there is danger beyond that,” he said.  “These are questions the Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to answer.  The EPA has not answered despite the fact that they’ve been repeatedly urged to step up to the plate for well over a year if not 2 years.”

The EPA reported testing had shown no current health threat from the landfill.

The EPA will update the public at an October 26th meeting in Bridgeton.

A community meeting on the landfill issues is set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at John Calvin Presbyterian Church at 12567 Natural Bridge in Bridgeton.

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