Environmentalists demand state officials monitor radioactive waste in Bridgeton Landfill stormwater | St. Louis Public Radio

Environmentalists demand state officials monitor radioactive waste in Bridgeton Landfill stormwater

Oct 12, 2017

Residents and environmental activists expressed concerns at a public hearing Wednesday night that the state's pending stormwater permit for the Bridgeton Landfill does not require monitoring for radioactive waste. 

The Bridgeton Landfill sits above an underground smoldering fire, located about 600 feet from the World War II-era radioactive waste that's under the West Lake Landfill Superfund site. Concerns about radioactive contamination in stormwater rose over the summer, when the Missouri Department of Natural Resources released a report showing levels of alpha particles in runoff at Bridgeton Landfill that exceeded drinking water standards after heavy rains in late April. Alpha particles are a type of radiation that does not pierce the skin and must be ingested to damage human health.

"Our water permit doesn't address radionucleides just because that portion of the site is overseen by the [Environmental Protection Agency]," said Jake Faulkner, the industrial permits chief at the Missouri DNR's water protection program. 

Residents at the public hearing and at past meetings have expressed worry that the stormwater could carry radioactive contamination into the Missouri River, a source of public drinking water. At the meeting, Faulkner pointed out that the stormwater at the Bridgeton Landfill does get processed through an on-site water treatment plant. Officials with landfill owner Republic Services have said that the stormwater poses no risk to public health since it is not a source of drinking water. 

Ed Smith, policy director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said that both state and federal entities should test for radioactive materials. 

"We should have a redundant testing system at West Lake Landfill to make sure that the radioactive material, which is not contained, is not running off into stormwater," Smith said. 

Smith and other area activists at the meeting also pressed for an extension to the public comment period, as Wednesday was the last day the Missouri DNR took public comments on the draft stormwater permit. 

"It is a shame that we are even here talking about radioactive waste in rainwater runoff," local activist Dawn Chapman said. "It's my hope that the state of Missouri will keep in mind that this waste does not belong here. It doesn't belong near our drinking water source." 

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