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Army Corps of Engineers says it can't speed cleanup of West Lake Landfill

A cautionary sign at a fence around the West Lake Landfill Superfund site, which contains World War II-era nuclear waste.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio


Transferring authority for the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not speed up removal of radioactive waste from the site, a corps official told federal lawmakers recently.

Federal officials are considering legislation to transfer jurisdiction of the Superfund site from the Environmental Protection Agency to FUSRAP, the Corps' cleanup program. Members of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce in May wrote the Corps to ask how moving the landfill to FUSRAP would affect the remediation process.


In a response last Thursday, Steve Stockton, the Corps’ director of civil works, wrote that such a move would not accelerate the remediation process, given the agency’s limited resources.


"Additionally, there is no guarantee that the ultimate cleanup actions would be different than those which would occur under the current process," Stockton wrote.


Local residents and activists have long complained that the EPA has done little to clean up the West Lake Landfill and currently demand for more areas of the site to be tested for radioactive waste.


Ed Smith, policy director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, stresses that the Corps is better equipped to handle the West Lake Landfill.


"The Army Corps of Engineers has a skillset when it comes to radioactive waste that's greater than the EPA's and they need to use it to clean up this site," Smith said. "FUSRAP is here right now, cleaning up radioactive waste [in Saint Louis]. Their office is here, while EPA Region 7's office is in Kansas. We're talking a literal corps of engineers. That's what it's going to take to clean up West Lake."


EPA officials have said that the contamination is contained and poses no threat to the community.



Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.