Missouri Coalition for the Environment: Experts Brief Missouri Public
Officials About Nuclear Weapons Waste And Landfill Fire Risks At Republic
Services' West Lake/Bridgeton Landfill
ST. LOUIS, March 15, 2013
Community, Environmental, Labor Coalition Presents Demands
ST. LOUIS, March 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Two independent experts
briefed public officials from the St. Louis region today about their
assessment of the risks posed by the fire and nuclear weapons wastes at the
West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo. The landfill sits in an urban area in the
Missouri River floodplain. The landfill is owned and operated by Republic
Services [NYSE: RSG] – a multi-billion dollar waste company based in Arizona.
Republic's landfill has been in the news recently due to citizen complaints
about persistent stench, the expanding underground fire, a recent explosion,
and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) investigation of radiation
levels and groundwater contamination.
The EPA announced this week that it has detected radiation at the site while
flying its anti-terrorism ASPECT plane overhead, but has not yet reported any
details. The ASPECT plane was recently used to scan President Obama's
Inauguration and the Super Bowl for chemical traces that might indicate a
dirty bomb or other chemical threat[i].
Public officials representing communities that surround the Republic
Services-owned landfill heard testimony about the risks that the currently
expanding landfill fire poses to residents in the St. Louis area, especially
in the presence of untreated nuclear weapons wastes at the site.
Radioactive wastes dumped at the West Lake Landfill in 1973 sit in the
Missouri River floodplain with no protective barriers between the wastes and
the groundwater. The site is located 8 river miles upstream from where
drinking water is pulled for more than 300,000 North St. Louis County
The EPA has jurisdiction over the radiological contamination while the
Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has jurisdiction over the
remainder, including the underground landfill fire.
Bob Criss, the first expert to speak, is Director of the Stable Isotope
Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis and a Missouri River expert.
Criss provided an analysis of the radioactive segment of the landfill.
"Neither the nature of the radioactive wastes, nor relevant levels of
background radiation, nor the scale of groundwater migration and contamination
have been adequately characterized," Criss said. "All are needed before
appropriate remediation can be planned, and it is inexcusable that so little
is known after more than 30 years of study."
"Few things are as absurd as dumping almost 9,000 tons of waste containing
radionuclides, in an unlined landfill, in a floodplain, in a major
metropolitan area," Criss said.
Of the several areas contaminated with nuclear weapons wastes in St. Louis,
the West Lake Landfill Superfund Site is the only site that remains untouched.
The Army Corps of Engineers has already removed more than 1 million cubic
yards of contaminated materials with several years left before completion.
Peter Anderson, the second speaker, is Executive Director of the Center for a
Competitive Waste Industry. He explained that, almost always, underground
landfill fires cannot be put out, precisely because they are deep, like coal
mine fires. Instead, they rage uncontrolled for 10 or 20 years or more,
degrading and destroying critical safety systems and leading to the release of
dangerous compounds into the air and groundwater.
For the past nine years a major uncontrolled underground fire has raged at
Republic's Countywide Landfill in Ohio, where the company's public assurances
were later demonstrated as false. In both Ohio and Missouri, Anderson said,
"the landfill fires began due to the incompetence of the company."
"As a consequence of what I feel is Republic's gross negligence here in
Bridgeton, Missouri and given the complete lack of hard data about how much
flammable material is in the quarry pit to speed the spread of the fire, as
well as how far the radiological wastes have migrated in the direction of the
fire, there is a very real prospect that lethal material will be released into
the atmosphere and groundwater," Anderson said.
"Moreover, in view of recent methane explosions and the fact that pools of
methane gas seem to lie in proximity to jet fuels and other accelerants, there
is the non-trivial possibility of a dirty bomb scenario," Anderson said.
"Given Republic's deplorable track record, we need public authorities to hire
top experts to conduct rigorous independent testing, and take charge of
directing remedies, which should be billed back to the company, as well as
assurances paid down for future costs to protect the public from future
risks," Anderson said.
The event was organized by a coalition comprised of Missouri Coalition for the
Environment, Missouri Jobs with Justice, and Joint Council 13 of the
International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Marvin Kropp, President of Teamsters Joint Council 13, thanked the assembled
officials, and introduced the speakers and coalition members.
"Teamsters and their family members live and work at and around the Bridgeton
landfill, and we have members who work for Republic across the country," Kropp
said. "Our experience is that Republic can't be trusted – it is hurting
working families and communities across the country. We want to see them
Jobs with Justice's Joan Suarez presented the coalition's demands of EPA and
DNR: 1. Ensure public safety through solid independent analysis; 2. Enhance
public engagement and transparency; and 3. Guarantee taxpayer protection by
charging Republic and other responsible parties all present and future costs
associated with protecting the public.
"Workers, communities and Missouri taxpayers shouldn't be saddled with the
costs of Republic's negligence," Suarez said. (See below for the demands in
"We have been concerned about the radioactive contamination at the West Lake
Landfill for more than ten years," said Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition for
the Environment. "The emergence of a landfill fire over the last two years
shows that unexpected problems can always arise. This is one of countless
reasons why the radioactive wastes need to be removed."
The Coalition commended Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for
realizing its initial testing efforts were insufficient and seeking to hire
outside contractors, at Republic's expense.
"It is clear that a more sophisticated, independent testing and intervention
regime, with full disclosure, is needed," Smith said. "We will continue to
actively engage to make sure that the highest standards are upheld, community
interests are heard, and Republic Services and other responsible parties are
The Coalition's demands are as follows:
1.PUBLIC SAFETY THROUGH INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS: At Republic's expense, DNR and
EPA needs to hire fully independent, highly qualified air, water and fire
experts, capable of testing for all relevant compounds of concern; DNR also
needs to engage experts to assess Republic's plan of action, review data and
recommend whatever additional steps are needed to:
ostop the landfill fire and secure the general population from the chemical
oprotect the public, local businesses and landfill workers from negative
health and economic
oimpacts arising out of Republic's negligence.
2. PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND TRANSPARENCY: DNR and EPA should continue to make
emissions data and data gathering techniques public, and maintain close
contact with fence‐line communities. At Republic's expense, DNR should fund
the unpaid Community Advisory Group so it can hire its own experts, regularly
communicate with all residents, and sustain normal administrative costs
associated with keeping track of Republic's clean‐up efforts.
3. TAXPAYER PROTECTION: To protect the taxpayer, Republic Services needs to
pay all present and future costs associated with independent testing,
analysis, prevention and remediation of the Bridgeton/West Lake landfill fire
that are sustained by DNR or other stakeholders.
[i] Preparedness Videos and Slideshows | Science Notebook | USEPA
Climb aboard ourASPECT planeto see howEPAcollects data on the
fly....device (RDD or dirty bomb) or improvised nuclear detonation (IND)
SOURCE Missouri Coalition for the Environment; International Brotherhood of
Teamsters; Missouri Jobs with Justice
Contact: Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Ed Smith, +1-314-727-0600,
firstname.lastname@example.org, or Missouri Jobs with Justice, Joan Suarez,
+1-314-422-7389, email@example.com, or Teamsters Union, Marvin Kropp,
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