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Radioactivity Testing At Bridgeton Landfill To Start Next Week

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(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)
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An underground fire has been smoldering at the Bridgeton landfill for more than 2 years.

Updated 4:07 p.m.

Preliminary work to build a firebreak at the Bridgeton Landfill will begin next week. But a local environmental group is worried about what it could stir up.

To figure out where they can safely dig the trench that will separate the underground fire from the radioactive waste, contractors will test the soil for radioactivity. That involves clearing trees and shrubs away from where the firebreak will be built.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment's Ed Smith says if workers use large rotary mowers known as brush hogs, it could contaminate the air with radioactive dust.

"Brush hogs kick up a lot of dust," Smith said. "Anybody that's even used a push lawn mower knows that it creates dust."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the use of heavy machinery will be kept to a minimum and monitors will test for airborne radiation.

The Coalition has asked the EPA to schedule a public meeting to discuss work at the landfill. But EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks says that won't happen before next week.

"The next meeting of the community advisory group is in the middle of November," he said. "There will be EPA staff at that meeting. So that will be the next time that there's a direct public conversation about the work underway."

Brooks says testing will continue into December, with construction on the firebreak expected to begin next year.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter@KWMUScience

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