West Lake landfill

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. 

Former nuclear weapons workers and their family members wait to file claims for a federal compensation program at the International Union of Operating Engineers Hall in Bridgeton.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Former nuclear weapons workers in the St. Louis area -- whose jobs may have put many of them at a greater risk for cancer, silicosis and other illnesses -- may be eligible to have their medical bills paid and receive lump-sum payments under a federal program.

But many workers and their surviving family members don't know about the program, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which is why representatives are in Bridgeton this week conducting outreach sessions.

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.

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.

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

Residents near the West Lake landfill who have long sought a change in federal oversight are closer to getting part of their wish granted, with late Tuesday’s Senate passage of a bill that would transfer authority of the radioactive site to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Senate action came as a result of a bipartisan push by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

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

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ordering those responsible for the West Lake landfill to clear brush and provide fire-proof cover for areas contaminated by radioactive waste.

The order comes after an October brush fire at the entrance to the north St. Louis County landfill raised concerns about the consequences of a surface fire reaching radioactive waste at West Lake.

Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation prepares to give the blessing at a Hanukkah party at the White House Dec. 9.
Screen capture | White House video

A St. Louis rabbi has used an appearance at the White House to highlight efforts to reduce violence and deal with radioactive contamination.

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.

Map of the West Lake Landfill
Provided by the EPA

A rare bipartisan coalition of the region’s two members of the U.S. House and both of Missouri’s U.S. senators has filed legislation to transfer authority for the West Lake landfill from the Environmental Protection Action to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-University City, and Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, have filed a bill in the House. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have filed a companion measure in the Senate.

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.

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