West Lake Landfill
1:16 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

EPA Says Radiation Screening Suggests Bridgeton Athletic Complex "Suitable For Public Use"

Preliminary radiation screening at the Bridgeton Municipal Athletic Complex (BMAC) suggests the ball fields do not pose a risk to public health.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the results on Thursday.

The athletic fields are less than a mile from the West Lake Landfill, an EPA Superfund site containing radioactive waste.

Map showing the locations of the West Lake Landfill (green), BMAC (orange), Koch Park (purple), and Blanchette Park (blue).
Map showing the locations of the West Lake Landfill (green), BMAC (orange), Koch Park (purple), and Blanchette Park (blue).
Credit U.S. EPA Region 7

Beginning on May 19, the EPA measured surface gamma radiation at more than 58,000 points across the ball fields and other outdoor areas of the complex. The parking lots were not included in the testing.

EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said none of the levels found at BMAC "would have required this Agency to take any action" or showed "any significant or unusual variations."

Brooks would not specifically say whether any of the readings were above background levels. "The gamma levels at BMAC were consistent with those of other parks in North St. Louis County," Brooks said.

Brooks was referring to additional gamma radiation screenings the EPA conducted at Koch and Blanchette parks, which Brooks said found surface levels "comparable" to those at BMAC.

Tetra Tech, Inc., personnel conducts gamma radiation screening at BMAC.
Tetra Tech, Inc., personnel conducts gamma radiation screening at BMAC.
Credit U.S. EPA Region 7

Maryland Heights mother of three, Dawn Chapman, said she's glad the EPA listened to the concerns of the community and came out to Bridgeton to test the athletic complex.

But she said gamma radiation screening isn't enough to reassure her because it does not provide the same level of detailed information as soil testing. She said she wants to see the EPA's next round of test results, from the surface soil samples the agency collected from scattered locations throughout the complex.

"I'm very anxious to see those soil samples," Chapman said.

The EPA's Karl Brooks said some of those samples were collected from the same areas where Chapman and her non-profit group, Just Moms STL, hired a contractor to collect and test soil samples this spring. Brooks said the EPA's sampling included the drainage ditch where Chapman said her group found “an abnormal concentration of radioactive lead."

Chapman said she just got back more detailed results from another testing lab, Eberline. She said she plans to share those results with the EPA, elected officials, and the public (we'll have more on that as information becomes available.)

Map showing locations at BMAC where 88 soil and outfall samples were collected for further testing. An additional 24 samples were collected at Koch and Blanchette parks for comparison. Results are expected in late July.
Map showing locations at BMAC where 88 soil and outfall samples were collected for further testing. An additional 24 samples were collected at Koch and Blanchette parks for comparison. Results are expected in late July.
Credit U.S. EPA Region 7

Brooks said the results of the EPA's soil testing should be back from its lab at the end of July. "We’ll know then what the particular levels of particular products like thorium, radium, and uranium are," Brooks said.

But he insisted that people can feel safe using the athletic complex in the meantime.

"I think people who use BMAC, whether they’re out there to watch their kids play baseball, or whether they’re going for 4th of July fireworks, should go there knowing that they are in a park where their health is protected," Brooks said.

Chapman said she would like to see the EPA expand its sampling beyond the athletic complex, to test other areas around the West Lake Landfill for radioactive material. "Has it gotten off site," Chapman said. "What are those levels. And then when we have all that data in front of us, then it’s time for [the EPA] to decide what to do about it. And who’s responsible for what."

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter@KWMUScience