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McCaskill Touts Bipartisan Effort To Tackle Landfill, Fix Roads And Bridges

Nora Ibrahim/St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are talking about what’s best for the Bridgeton landfill and the World War II-era radioactive material stored at the neighboring West Lake landfill.

So says U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who was among four Missouri members of Congress – two Republicans and two Democrats – who cosigned a recent letter asking the EPA to work with the Corps, which previously dealt with similar radioactive sites elsewhere in the St. Louis area.

The letter also was signed by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, and Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin.

McCaskill told reporters Monday that she didn’t want to sabotage the discussions, but that the general effort at cooperation was likely no secret.  Still she emphasized that the result may not be what some environmentalists may seek – the removal of the radioactive material.

McCaskill noted that some experts have been saying for some time that it may be safer to leave the material where it is – in West Lake.  The radioactive waste was moved to the landfill decades ago from various sites in the St. Louis area involved in nuclear-bomb development during World War II.

McCaskill pointed out that numerous studies over the years have examined the problem, which is of particular concern to residents living near West Lake.  The issue has gotten even more attention because of an underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill. State and federal officials have said the fire poses no threat to the radioactive material, but a trench is being built to provide further protection.

“I don’t believe that there’s any secret study out there that shows that there is a much larger safety concern than we’re all aware of,” she said during a news conference in St. Louis on various issues. “I think the biggest problem that we have, frankly, is one, the complexity and cost of trying to move it, and then secondly, is it safer to move it?”

The job of the EPA and the Corps, she said, is “to figure out the answers to all of these questions.”

McCaskill said that a major impetus for the talks was the bipartisan congressional push. “This one of the things we’re working really hard at,’’ she said. “We want to work together as a delegation…I think that has much more impact on the EPA and the Corps.”

McCaskill, Blunt back plan to raise money for roads and bridges

On Tuesday, McCaskill plans to tout another bipartisan effort – a bill that she and Blunt are co-sponsoring to help raise money to pay for needed improvements to the nation’s roads and bridges.

The bill in question seeks to encourage American corporations to bring their overseas profits back home, by using the money to buy $50 billion in bonds to pay for the projects. The companies would bid on the bonds by proposing what tax rate they would be willing to pay.

“I think it’s a great way to build an infrastructure bank without toll roads and without higher taxes,” McCaskill said. “And yet we’re not going to be spending tax dollars on it. We’re going to be pulling back profits from overseas that would actually fund this.”

She added that there's no question that Missouri could benefit from such a program. The state ranks 10th in country, when it comes to defective bridges, and ranks 45th on spending for such projects.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.