Landfill opponents blast new EPA report

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - In a report released Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency says the footprint of the radiologically-impacted material in the West Lake Landfill “has been revised,” because such material has been identified in areas not seen during previous site investigations.

“Why is this just coming out right now, after this fire has been burning for six years? Why are they just now finding the extent of the radioactive waste at the site?” said Dawn Chapman, a local landfill opponent.

Chapman and others say the report is all the more reason to take the matter out of the hands of the EPA and turn it over to the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The question has always been what will happen when the fire meets the waste? That's not the question. The question is what will happen when the waste meets the fire? And right now no one can tell us that it hasn't,” said Karen Nickel.

While the footprint of the radiologically-impacted material (RIM) has been revised, the health risks associated with it have not. The EPA still maintains that the communities surrounding the site should see no significant risks posed by the waste contained at West Lake Landfill.

“That's a laughable comment by EPA,” Chapman said. “And there isn't anyone in this community or Congress or the Senate that's going to believe that.”

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released this statement:

“Today’s report confirms that EPA has never had a clear picture of the extent of contamination at the West Lake landfill, and it is deeply concerning that it took EPA so long to figure that out. The new data places the radioactive waste hundreds of feet further south than previously known, closer to the still-burning underground fire. And EPA has yet to reveal its plan for preventing the fire from ever reaching the waste. It is long past time for the federal government to transfer responsibility of the site to the Army Corps for swift and certain remedial action.”

While the new data indicates the material has been identified further south and beneath a portion of the Bridgeton Landfill known as the “muffin top,” testing indicates the sub-surface smoldering remains in the south quarry, hundreds of feet from the radiologically-impacted materials.

“We need EPA off and Army Corps of Engineers on,” Chapman said. “We need somebody up there that's going to start digging holes and finding this stuff once and for all so somebody can get a complete picture of what this site looks like in order to figure out what to do to keep the fire from meeting the radioactive waste.”

Republic Services, the company that owns the landfill, released the following statement:

“This EPA report, which summarizes its investigation over the past two years, should once again give the community a better idea of where the RIM is and is not. Additionally, EPA has determined that the RIM is not threatened by the underground smolder, which is neither moving into the north quarry nor into West Lake Landfill. And it has found no new risks to health. This all seems like a good and important step toward reaching a final decision by the end of year."

Officials with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment are calling for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation that would transfer authority of the site to the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Without testing the entire area between the smoldering fire and the radioactive wastes, the EPA cannot say with any confidence the distance that separates these two problems,” the coalition said in a statement.