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Radioactive Waste Detected Closer To The Bridgeton Landfill Fire

Sarah Skiold-Hanlin, St. Louis Public Radio

Updated on 3/20/14 to add a statement from landfill owner Bridgeton Landfill, LLC, a subsidiary of Republic Services.

Preliminary tests by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have found radioactive waste closer to the underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill than previously thought.

The news came in a letter sent on Tuesday from Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks.

Credit U.S. EPA
Radioactive waste was supposed to be confined to "Operable Unit 1" in the West Lake Landfill, but preliminary tests have detected it in the Bridgeton Landfill, labeled "Former Active Sanitary Landfill" on this map.

In the letter, Koster said the EPA needs to act more quickly to determine the extent of the radioactive material and to prevent the fire from reaching it.

Koster said initial EPA test results detected radioactive material in the north quarry of the Bridgeton Landfill.

That would put the waste outside the limits of the West Lake Landfill, which is part of the radioactive Superfund site under EPA oversight.

Koster said if the presence of radioactive waste in the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill is confirmed, the EPA must take over legal authority for that area as well.

He also asked the EPA to speed up preparations to build an isolation barrier between the fire and waste.

Those plans were first announced by landfill owner Republic Services six months ago, but construction of the fire break has still not begun.

In response to St. Louis Public Radio's request for comment, EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks provided the following written statement:

“We are pleased to receive the Missouri AG letter today and look forward to continuing our dialogue with him.  The EPA Region 7 continues its focused and coordinated efforts with state and federal partners to protect public health at the West Lake Superfund site in St. Louis. We expect continued robust discussions on how best to align both the federal and state level efforts to manage the West Lake and Bridgeton sites. We are committed to keeping the public informed with accurate and timely information.”

A spokesperson for Bridgeton Landfill, LLC, a subsidiary of Republic Services, said that the safety of both the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills is the company's "highest priority." He added that the landfill owners "are committed to the rapid construction of an isolation barrier, once a plan by regulatory authorities has been approved.”

Follow Veronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience