A coalition of environmental and worker rights organizations held a meeting today to lobby government officials about the risks posed by an underground fire at the Bridgeton landfill.
Experts brought in by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Missouri Jobs with Justice, and the Teamsters Union raised the alarm about the proximity of the fire to radioactive wastes stored in the adjacent West Lake landfill.
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s Ed Smith says not enough is being done to protect area residents from potential risks.
“The take-home message is that this is going to be a long-term issue, that there’s not going to be a quick fix, and that we need consistent pressure from our elected officials on those responsible for the landfill fire and the radioactive wastes,” Smith said.
Bob Nowlin was at the meeting. He’s lived in Spanish Village just south of the Bridgeton landfill for the past 36 years.
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He says as a resident, his biggest concern is about health hazards — from the fumes created by the fire smoldering underground at the landfill, and from the radioactive material stored not far away.
“There’s a lot of information out there that is being put out, some of it accurate, some of it not accurate,” Nowlin said. “There’s a lot of questions…”
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources says the landfill fumes don’t pose a health risk and that steps are being taken to keep the underground fire from spreading.
But many area residents are not convinced.
The fire has been smoldering inside the landfill for more than two years. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the radioactive wastes are about 1,200 feet away.
Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience