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Bridgeton Landfill to pay $16 million to settle state lawsuit over underground smoldering fire

The Bridgeton Landfill, pictured here, sits adjacent to the West Lake Landfill.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
The owners of the Bridgeton landfill have agreed to pay $16 million to settle a lawsuit with the state over its handling of an underground smoldering fire. Local residents have blamed the landfill for foul odors and respiratory health problems for years.

The state of Missouri reached a settlement Friday with the owners of the Bridgeton landfill over how they’ve handled an underground smoldering fire.

Former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against the companies in 2013, alleging that the fire under the Bridgeton landfill was harming local residents. The fire is located about 600 feet from World War II-era radioactive waste under the nearby West Lake Landfill.

Under the terms of an agreement approved by St. Louis County Circuit Judge Michael Jamison, Bridgeton Landfill LLC, Allied Services LLC and waste-management company Republic Services must put $12.5 million in a “community project fund” to compensate residents affected by the landfill. The owners agreed to also pay $3.5 million in penalties and damages to the state.

“This agreement provides a path forward to ensure that the site will remain controlled and stable, and that it will continue to be closely monitored and studied under the supervision of the State,” Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley wrote in a statement. “This agreement does not end our engagement with the landfill, but rather represents an ongoing commitment to ensure the site is controlled, and the community protected.”

In an emailed statement, Bridgeton Landfill LLC wrote that it had “voluntarily invested more than $200 million in odor control, environmental remediation and site enhancements.” Landfill officials expect the fire to smolder until 2024.

Residents have long complained that the Bridgeton landfill has caused foul odors and respiratory problems.

“This community has waited a long time for a step in the right direction in holding this company accountable for their actions,” said Karen Nickel, an area activist based in Maryland Heights. “There are many moving pieces to this issue, and entering into this consent decree with Republic Services — which now legally binds the company to financial responsibility — is something we thought we would never see.”

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