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Residents demand that EPA fully remove radioactive waste from the West Lake Landfill

At an EPA-hosted community meeting about the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in mid-2016, Bridgeton Councilwoman Linda Eaker asks for a show of hands regarding support for full excavation of radioactive waste.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio
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At an EPA-hosted community meeting about the West Lake Landfill Superfund site, Bridgeton Councilwoman Linda Eaker asks for a show of hands regarding support for full excavation of radioactive waste.

Residents and local officials continued to press the Environmental Protection Agency for full removal of radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in Bridgeton at a meeting on Monday night. 

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Credit Eli Chen
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Activist group Soul Much Water, who supports Just Moms STL, held a protest outside the Bridgeton Community Center on Monday evening.

By December, the federal agency must decide between four possible remedies for handling the radioactive contamination. The EPA could take no action, cap the waste in place, partial remove it or completely do so.

At the meeting Monday, agency officials discussed partial or full removal with members of the community. In June, the EPA released a 2013 report conducted by the National Remedy Review Board, in which officials from the agency said that removal of the waste is "feasible."

Partial removal of the waste could involve what officials call a "hot spot" approach, digging out the highest concentrated radioactive contamination, or excavating down to a set depth or concentration of waste. 

Doug Clemens, who chairs the Community Advisory Group, was one of several community members who called for full removal and a voluntary buyout for nearby residents. 

"The people I represent do not want anything short of a full excavation," Clemens said, as he sat directly across from Superfund program officials. 

When Bridgeton Councilwoman Linda Eaker asked for a show of hands for those in favor of full removal, many people raised their hand. No one did so when she asked who favored a partial removal. 

Area activists also called for EPA officials to study the groundwater contamination at the site before deciding on a remedy. The agency is evaluating the groundwater separately from the landfill. 

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EPA Superfund officials Brad Vann and Mary Peterson answered questions at the community meeting.

"Unless you're going to fully remove the waste, it makes zero sense to come out with a record of decision without part of this site being studied," said Dawn Chapman, who leads the Just Moms STL group. "And a huge part of it is groundwater. I really think you guys are, forgive me, you're asking for a little bit of a bottom spanking."

Brad Vann, remedial project manager for the EPA's Superfund Division, tried to reassure residents that the agency will determine the best possible remedy for the site. 

"We want to get it right," he said, "but we also want to make sure that we're not sitting here eight years later."

Correction: An earlier version of this report misidentified Bridgeton Councilwoman Linda Eaker, who asked for a show of hands for those in favor of full removal of the radioactive waste.

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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