Bridgeton Landfill

 

A worker does maintenance on a wastewater pump at the Bridgeton Landfill on Aug. 28.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency did not attend a public meeting to share updates on the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton late Monday after someone made threatening comments in a Facebook group for local advocates.

Map of the West Lake Landfill
Provided by the EPA

The owner of the Bridgeton Landfill is now on a deadline to install several components of a system that will separate radioactive waste from an underground smoldering fire.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 7 issued an Administrative Settlement Agreement Thursday that names deadlines for a heat extraction system, air monitors and temperature probes.

Legacy nuclear waste at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton was thought to be contained behind this fence, but a new study has detected radiation in trees offsite.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

A lawsuit between Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and the operator of the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills has been sent back to St. Louis County’s Circuit Court by a federal judge.

Phil Perino, who lives near the West Lake Landfill, listened in on a public meeting with the EPA on Monday evening.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Capping the radioactive contamination buried in the West Lake Landfill instead of moving the dirt offsite is one alternative the Environmental Protection Agency will consider this year as it determines a permanent solution for the site. But for residents in the crowd at a public meeting, it felt like a cruel round of deja vu. 

A worker for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources collects a soil sample as part of testing for radioactive contamination around West Lake Landfill.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Updated at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, with information from the EPA:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will clean up radioactive contamination confirmed to be found in soil on private property adjacent to the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. 

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

In our weekly "Behind the Headlines" segment, “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh discussed the top news stories that caught St. Louisans’ attention this week, with the people that produced them and contributed to them.

An underground fire has been smoldering in the Bridgeton Landfill for five years, about 1,000 feet away from tons of nuclear waste in the adjacent West Lake Landfill.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill has been detected farther south than previously reported, according to data released Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new map shows contamination on the northern edge of the Bridgeton Landfill, a few hundred feet away from an underground smoldering fire that has existed since at least 2010. The contaminated soil, left over from the Manhattan Project, is about 70 to 80 feet underground in the newly discovered area, officials said.

An underground fire has been smoldering in the Bridgeton Landfill for five years, about 1,000 feet away from tons of nuclear waste in the adjacent West Lake Landfill.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s attorney general is publicly chiding the Environmental Protection Agency for its “repeated missed deadlines" in its oversight of radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill in north St. Louis County. An underground chemical reaction, commonly referred to as a fire, has been smoldering in the landfill next door since at least 2010.

In an open letter, Attorney General Chris Koster detailed three instances where EPA has promised information that it failed to deliver:

Map of the West Lake Landfill
Provided by the EPA

A federal proposal to remove the Environmental Protection Agency from the helm of remediation efforts at the West Lake Landfill is hitting some opposition in Washington, as an underground, high-temperature chemical reaction (typically referred to as a fire) continues to burn in the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill.

Dr. Helen Caldicott (right), an anti-nuclear activist and expert on radioactive waste, discusses how exposure to radioactive contamination could have impacted Hazelwood resident Mary Oscko's (left) lung cancer, alongside Just Moms STL's Karen Nickel.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio.

An internationally recognized anti-nuclear activist and Australian physician said the radioactive contamination in north St. Louis County is "worse than most places" she's investigated.

Co-founder of Just Moms STL Karen Nickel (at podium) said her group has the support of Missouri's U.S. Senate representatives in their efforts to meet with the EPA.
Just Moms STL | Facebook

An activist group of St. Louis area moms concerned about underground smoldering at the Bridgeton Landfill plans to picket outside the Environmental Protection Agency's Washington, D.C. offices on Wednesday.

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County health department said a health survey of residents living near the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills will begin in about two weeks, a year after its initial announcement.

This figure from the USGS West Lake Landfill groundwater report shows levels of radium in groundwater wells under and around the landfill. Red, orange, and yellow dots show radium contamination above the federal safe drinking water standard.
U.S. Geological Survey

In a move that environmental groups say they are “excited” and “pleasantly surprised” about, the Environmental Protection Agency said it plans to create a specific unit to study groundwater contamination at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site.

At a meeting of the West Lake/Bridgeton Landfill Community Advisory Group Monday night, the EPA also said it would conduct more testing to see if any radiological sediment had moved off the site during widespread flooding last year.

Legacy nuclear waste at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton was thought to be contained behind this fence, but a new study has detected radiation in trees offsite.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

After two years of delay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday that it will move ahead with plans to build a firebreak at a landfill complex in north St. Louis County.

A fire has been smoldering underground at the Bridgeton Landfill since late 2010, about 1,000 feet away from tons of radioactive waste buried in the adjacent West Lake Landfill.

Moose Winan, "Rolling Thunder & Hills," Ozark Mountains
Moose Winans | Flickr, Creative Commons | http://bit.ly/1YyPCLb

One word comes to mind when we think about the environmental news that’s been a conversation starter in St. Louis in 2015: landfills. Specifically, what is going on at the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills north St. Louis County. On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” St. Louis Public Radio’s science reporter Véronique LaCapra joined the show to discuss the evolution of the landfill situation and other big science, environmental and wildlife news of the year.

Some of the topics we discussed:

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

You may have heard of the local group of nuns who go to Bridgeton to pray for and protest over the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills, which have been the subject of much controversy in recent years.

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio

In the mid-1960s, trucks carrying radioactive waste left over from World War II began lumbering along the then-dirt road leading to what’s now the West Lake landfill.

The waste was moved to the site — then deemed remote enough from humans — over more than a decade. Federal authorities denied that the yellow “dirt” contained radioactive radium and uranium.

Even the truck drivers — some of whom later died of cancer — didn’t know what they were transporting for years.

An underground fire has been smoldering in the Bridgeton Landfill for five years, about 1,000 feet away from tons of nuclear waste in the adjacent West Lake Landfill.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio has been following developments at a landfill complex in St. Louis County, where for five years an underground fire has been smoldering at the Bridgeton Landfill, about 1,000 feet away from radioactive waste at the adjacent West Lake Landfill.

The situation is unique, and we thought it merited national attention. You can listen to our national update below, or read the story at npr.org.

Still from feature film "First Secret City"
St. Louis International Film Festival

Cinema St. Louis’ St. Louis International Film Festival starts next week on November 5, bringing with it a group of films that are sure to inspire some conversation around town. “The First Secret City” is one of them.

Since this map was created, EPA contractors have detected more radioactive waste than what is shown in pink, including some along the southern edge of OU-1 in what is called the "muffin top" of the north quarry of the Bridgeton Landfill.
Debbie Kring | U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Representatives from two federal agencies took heated criticism over the management of a former dumpsite for radioactive material and a nearby underground smolder at the Bridgeton Landfill on Monday night, as they tried to assure residents that their data suggests the surrounding communities are safe.

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5 p.m., Oct. 20 with new information -- St. Louis Public Radio is updating this FAQ to describe what we know — and don't know — about the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills. We'll continue to add to it based on your input and as new information becomes available.

In March 2014, we first published this story to help answer some key questions about the situation at this complex of landfills in north St. Louis County.

A lot has happened since then — but in many ways, not much has changed.

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal report shows no off-site human health risk from radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill.

At the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, reviewed existing data on groundwater, air, and soil contamination at and around the landfill in Bridgeton.

Overall, the assessment found no radiation risk to surrounding communities, but did caution that workers at the landfill need to be protected from inhaling radioactive dust and radon gas.

This photo taken in February of the Bridgeton Landfill's south quarry shows the plastic cap and several gas extraction wells.
Katelyn Mae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Bridgeton and West Lake Landfill owner Republic Services is calling into question the validity of one of the reports released last month by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

A deposition given this Wednesday and Thursday by the report's lead author seems to raise doubts about whether or not the underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill is really moving toward nearby radioactive waste.

Community activist Dawn Chapman speaks to an overflow crowd at the John Calvin Presbyterian Church about problems at the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 1:00 a.m. after the landfill meeting - Hundreds of area residents jammed into the John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Bridgeton Thursday night for a meeting about two St. Louis County landfills.

Many people at the meeting had never heard of the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills until last week, when St. Louis County made public an emergency response plan describing how it would respond if an underground fire at Bridgeton reaches radioactive waste at West Lake.

Since this map was created, EPA contractors have detected more radioactive waste than what is shown in pink, including some along the southern edge of OU-1 in what is called the "muffin top" of the north quarry of the Bridgeton Landfill.
Debbie Kring | U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Updated 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., Sept. 18 with U.S. Department of Energy response and comment from Sen. McCaskill's office - The U.S. Department of Energy is denying a request from members of Missouri's congressional delegation to transfer authority for the cleanup of radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Missouri Senate

Updated at 4:38 p.m. on Sept. 17 with audio - On Thursday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, announced her resignation as a member of the University City School Board.

Bridgeton Landfill
Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

On Thursday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” host Don Marsh brought together several different parties to talk about ongoing community concerns over radioactive contamination at the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills. He was joined by: 

  • Véronique LaCapra - St. Louis Public Radio’s science reporter. She has reported extensively on the situation at both landfills

  • Dawn Chapman - Citizen activist

  • Mike Petersen – Chief of Public Affairs, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Legacy nuclear waste at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton was thought to be contained behind this fence, but a new study has detected radiation in trees offsite.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:20 p.m., Sept. 3 with additional comments — Radiation from the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton has spread to neighboring properties. That's according to reports released on Thursday by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. The reports also suggest the underground fire at the neighboring Bridgeton Landfill is moving in the direction of the radioactive waste.

Landfill owner Republic Services maintains that the situation is under control and that the subsurface chemical reaction is headed south, away from the known area of nuclear contamination.

This graph from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' letter to Republic Services shows gradually rising temperatures in the neck of the Bridgeton Landfill.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Missouri environmental officials are ordering the owner of a landfill in Bridgeton do more to prevent a smoldering subsurface fire there from spreading. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources wants to keep the underground reaction from coming into contact with radioactive waste stored nearby.

But Republic Services, the owner, insists the situation at the Bridgeton Landfill is under control.

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The owners of the Bridgeton Landfill are facing fines from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources over noncompliance with emissions monitoring requirements.

According to a letter from Leanne Mosby, the DNR’s division director, Bridgeton Landfill LLC will be penalized up to $10,000 per violation, per day until the company resolves the issues. According to the letter the company:

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