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EPA plans to conduct further testing for radioactive waste at West Lake Landfill

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

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to conduct further testing for radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in Bridgeton. 

Albert Kelly, senior adviser to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and the head of the agency's Superfund Task Force, made the announcement at a forum late Thursday, where members of the community voiced concerns about the landfill. Kelly said he expects the sampling to occur within the next 90 days in the western part of the site, a portion that agency officials often refer to as "Operating Unit 2."

The announcement came as good news to area residents, who have long worried that that contamination has damaged their health.

EPA officials say they are confident that they know the extent of radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill. Based on aerial photographs and other data that has tracked the movement of the waste, the EPA had previously stated that it would not conduct more testing. But Kelly said Thursday that the EPA is willing to do so to ensure that it has enough information to allay residents' fears.

"We think it's very doubtful that you're going to find other radioactive places," he said. "But if in fact that will put to rest the concern that people have, then we're going to do that." 

People in the community who have complained that the contamination could be connected to local cases of cancer and autoimmune disease have insisted that federal officials perform more tests. 

"This is a huge win for the community," said Dawn Chapman, co-founder of the Just Moms STL activist group.  "We've only been asking for five years."

She also said that Kelly's visit to Bridgeton made her feel optimistic that federal officials are moving towards a solution for the site. 
 

Albert Kelly, former head of the EPA's Superfund Task Force, and EPA Region 7 administrator Cathy Stepp attend a town hall in Bridgeton about the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in October 2017
Credit Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio
Albert Kelly, head of the EPA's Superfund Task Force, and acting EPA Region 7 administrator Cathy Stepp listened to community members on Thursday night about their concerns regarding the West Lake Landfill Superfund site.

"I think we're closer to a remedy that we've ever been. And there's something about this guy that makes me believe him," Chapman said. 

The West Lake Landfill has been on the EPA's National Priorities List since 1990. The World War II-era radioactive waste underneath it sits approximately 600 feet from a smoldering fire under the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill. 

"This has been 27 years and how many people have been damaged [by] the inaction in years past?" Kelly said. "We're going to stop that so we don't have another generation of people who have health issues over this and we're going to do our very, very best to get this as clean as a whistle."

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

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