Lawmakers lose patience as bill to transfer authority of West Lake Landfill remains in limbo | St. Louis Public Radio

Lawmakers lose patience as bill to transfer authority of West Lake Landfill remains in limbo

Jul 13, 2016

U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner and Lacy Clay on Wednesday continued to press for the Environmental Protection Agency to transfer jurisdiction of the West Lake Superfund site in Bridgeton to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Residents and area activists, dissatisfied with the Environmental Protection Agency's handling of the site, have been waiting for Congress to pass a bill to put the nuclear waste in more capable hands. Despite how easily the bill passed the U.S. Senate, it is at a standstill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wagner, R-Ballwin, and Clay, D-University City, sponsored the proposed legislation that would put responsibility for removing the World War II-era waste under the Corps' cleanup program, known as FUSRAP.

While the EPA has set December as its deadline for determining a remedy, some policymakers think it's time for another authority to take over the cleanup. During a congressional hearing Wednesday on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, Wagner and Clay said they'd like to see the change.

"The agency has undoubtedly lost trust of its community and my trust as well," Wagner said, pounding her fist on the table. 

Wagner then read parts of a testimony submitted by local residents Dawn Chapman and Karen Nickel, leaders of the Just Moms STL activist group, who sat in the audience. 

Clay also expressed disappointment in the members of the House committee who sat before him. 

"When we put citizens at risk, when we disrupt their lives, when we destroy the peace and property values of those neighborhoods, and when we allow the health of innocent citizens to be harmed because of our own inaction, we must make it right," Clay said. 

Karen Baker, chief of the Department of the Army's environmental division, submitted a written testimony on Wednesday, reinforcing a position made by an Corps official last month that transferring jurisdiction to FUSRAP would not speed up the cleanup process. 

"The administration has serious concerns about this legislation and cannot support it in its current form, since the transfer of this site to the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) will likely further unnecessarily delay the cleanup of the site and it will saddle the general taxpayer with the cost recovery, as compared to the Potentially Responsible Parties at the site," Baker wrote. 

The earliest that the Corps program could begin evaluating the site would be in fiscal year 2018, she said.