Bridgeton Landfill
8:24 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

EPA: Radioactive Wastes At West Lake Landfill Not A Health Risk

The Environmental Protection Agency says radioactive wastes at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton are "contained" and "do not pose public health risks."

A fire has been smoldering underground at the Bridgeton Landfill (labeled "Former Active Sanitary Landfill" in this image) since late 2010. There is radioactive waste in the two purple regions labeled Operable Unit 1 Area 1 and Operable Unit 1 Area 2.
A fire has been smoldering underground at the Bridgeton Landfill (labeled "Former Active Sanitary Landfill" in this image) since late 2010. There is radioactive waste in the two purple regions labeled Operable Unit 1 Area 1 and Operable Unit 1 Area 2.
Credit Environmental Protection Agency report p. 15

Cold War-era radioactive materials were dumped there in the 1970s. But a fire burning underground at the nearby Bridgeton Landfill has renewed concerns that radiation might be moving off-site.

Speaking on a conference call with the press on Wednesday, EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said an aerial survey conducted in early March only detected elevated levels of radiation inside a fenced area of waste.

"What this means is a person would essentially have to trespass - jump the fence and stay over there - and we certainly do not recommend that - to risk being exposed to elevated levels of radiation," Brooks said.

But area residents and environmental groups have been raising concerns that the Bridgeton Landfill fire could reach that waste — with catastrophic results. They have been pushing the EPA to have the radioactive waste removed from the site, but Brooks could not say how soon that decision would be made. 

Credit Environmental Protection Agency report p.8

Maryland Heights resident Dawn Chapman says the EPA report changes nothing.

“We still, at the end of today, have a fire in a landfill that’s burning less than 1,000 feet from radioactive waste,” Chapman said.

Previous EPA testing detected elevated levels of radiation in groundwater near the landfill, and Chapman says wants to know how it got there.

The EPA will hold a public meeting on June 25 to discuss the results of radiation and groundwater testing at the West Lake Landfill. That meeting will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Pattonville High School, 2497 Creve Coeur Road in Maryland Heights.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter@KWMUScience