EPA plans to partially extract radioactive material at West Lake Landfill

BRIDGETON, MO - The EPA has announced that it wants to pursue partial excavation as its strategy to remediate the West Lake Landfill Superfund site.  The landfill is home to waste linked to the Manhattan project.

The proposed remedy, called "excavation plus," is expected to take five years to implement. The measure will remove the majority of radioactive contamination while installing an engineered cover system for long-term protection.The proposal will now be subject to a period of public comment before any decision is finalized.

“The people of the St. Louis region deserve clarity and answers with respect to the remediation of the West Lake Landfill,” writes EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a statement. “I promised them an answer, and today I am making good on that commitment. 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. Along with excavation, a permanent cap will be put in place that will provide additional protection to the community over the long term. This decision demonstrates my vision for the Superfund program. Through leadership and responsiveness to communities, we will make decisions that protect public health, comply with the law, and hold potentially responsible parties accountable.”

Bridgeton Landfill issued his statement about the EPA's decision, "From here, we will participate fully during the EPA’s comment period, as well as engage vigorously with the EPA and the other PRPs to ensure that the final remedy performed is based on science, and is fully protective of human health, including onsite workers performing any remedy, the community, and the environment."

Neighbors have voiced concerns for years that nuclear waste buried at West Lake Landfill in the 1970s is less than a quarter mile away from an underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill. The landfill has been classified a Superfund Site since 1990. A dozen people were arrested in 2017 during a protest blocking the entrances to the two sites.

“Partial removal is not acceptable. It means high levels of radioactivity will be left behind with the potential for water or airborne contamination into the future, creating unnecessary long-term risks to the St. Louis region,” said Ed Smith, Policy Director with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “People throughout the St. Louis need to rise up and flood the EPA with public comments for full removal and offsite disposal unless they want to continue living alongside this radioactive threat.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has said despite radioactive waste and an underground fire at Bridgeton Landfill, there is no increased risk to neighbors.