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St. Louis County health department to start surveying residents near Bridgeton Landfill this month

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio
Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.

The St. Louis County health department said a health survey of residents living near the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills will begin in about two weeks, a year after its initial announcement.

Director Faisal Khan said the odors coming from an underground fire at Bridgeton Landfill smoldering since 2010 have affected residents’ respiratory health. He said the survey will specifically look for complaints of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and allergies.

Using methodology developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the department will begin surveying households within a two-mile radius of the landfill on Feb. 22, Khan said.

Residents at a community meeting Monday night where Khan made the announcement expressed concern that some people experiencing symptoms will be excluded from the study. Others wondered why the survey area was geographically limited.

“It is meant to be a randomized sample, so not every household will be interviewed. We’re going to look at ensuring that we don’t over-sample and under-sample,” Khan said, noting the need to represent different races and genders.

Khan also said that even though the survey doesn’t cover all towns affected by the odors, the results will apply to their residents.

Within the two-mile area, about 800 of the area's 4,300 households will be targeted for responses. Khan said he hopes to get a sample base of 420 homes.  

Khan said the two-page questionnaire should take about 15 minutes for trained survey-takers to conduct, and they will attempt to get “three bites of the apple” by reaching out to homes at different times of day.

He said he hopes the survey is completed by the first week of March, with a draft report ready by the middle of June.

“Now that it’s crunch time, we have to focus on getting this done and in a scientific manner,” he said. “We need to make sure we do this right. We only get one chance.”

Residents with questions can email westlake-bridgeton.doh@stlouisco.com.

Follow Stephanie Lecci on Twitter: @stephlecci.