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Nuclear Policy Analyst: Radioactive Waste At West Lake Landfill Must Go

A nuclear policy analyst is adding his voice to those of area residents, environmental advocates and local government officials who want radioactive wastes out of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton.

Robert Alvarez served as a senior policy advisor in the Department of Energy under the Clinton administration and is currently a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Drawing on data from existing studies, Alvarez has written a reportassessing the West Lake Landfill for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. In it he argues that the landfill is more radioactive than the US Environmental Protection Agency has said and that it was never designed to contain nuclear waste.

“It would fail every single legal requirement for a licensed nuclear waste disposal site in the United States,” Alvarez said.

The landfill contains large and unknown quantities of radioactive waste illegally dumped there in 1973. According to Alvarez (report p.7), some legal requirements that apply to licensed nuclear waste disposal sites which the West Lake Landfill would violate are: 

  • The disposal site shall be capable of being characterized, modeled, analyzed, and monitored.
  • The disposal site shall not be in the 100-year floodplain.
  • The disposal site should provide a stable foundation for engineered containment structures.
  • The disposal site should be selected so that projected population growth will not affect the disposal facility's ability to meet the performance objectives.
  • Areas having known natural resources should be avoided.
  • The disposal site must be well drained.
  • The disposal site must provide sufficient depth to the water table.
  • The disposal site must not be located where nearby facilities or activities could adversely impact the site's ability to meet the performance objectives or the ability to be monitored.

Alvarez says the EPA’s 2008 decisionto leave the radioactive waste in Bridgeton fails to protect the health of area residents. He argues that the waste should be removed, and that oversight of the landfill should be transferred from the EPA to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which is already cleaning up other nuclear waste sites in the St. Louis area. 

Credit (Sarah Skiold-Hanlin, St. Louis Public Radio)
Southwest view of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.

EPA regional spokesperson Chris Whitley says his agency is currently reconsidering how the site should be managed.

“Any comment that Mr. Alvarez or anyone else would care to submit to EPA Region 7 would become part of the public record and the public file of comment that we would take into consideration before determining ultimately a remedy for the site,” Whitley said.

Alvarez and Washington University researcher Robert Criss will discuss the West Lake Landfill at a public meeting on Thursday night in Bridgeton. Criss, a Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences professor, published a reporton the West Lake Landfill in March.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the International Union of Operating Engineers, 3449 Hollenburg Dr., Bridgeton, MO 63044.

The following links have additional information on the West Lake Landfill:

Follow Veronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

Follow Sarah Skiöld-Hanlin on Twitter@Skihan