Brief

EPA: No sign of radioactive waste in homes near West Lake Landfill

Dive Brief:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a report stating it found no sign of radioactive Manhattan Project waste around homes in the Spanish Village neighborhood of Bridgeton, MO during December 2016 tests. The testing was initiated after a private lawsuit from local residents alleged that material from the nearby West Lake Landfill, operated by Republic Services, had contaminated their property.
  • The EPA conducted these tests in and around two homes and analyzed more than 140 samples. Their work was conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Centers for Disease Control and multiple state agencies.
  • These findings come shortly after the failure of a state bill that would have allowed 91 families in the neighborhood to sell their properties to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. While the state Senate approved the bill with $12.5 million in funding, that was reduced to $1 million during committee negotiations and the bill ultimately failed to pass the House of Representatives, as reported by St. Louis Public Radio.

Dive Insight:

It remains to be seen whether local residents will be satisfied with these results. Tensions have been very high in the area - as seen with a new lawsuit filed by the owners a nearby farm earlier this month - and the limited scope of the EPA's testing may lead to calls for further study in other parts of the neighborhood. Though these results can also be used to reinforce Republic Services' position that the situation with radioactive Manhattan Project waste at the West Lake Landfill is currently under control.

The larger question of how to remediate the West Lake Superfund site, and ensure that an ongoing underground reaction at Republic's adjacent Bridgeton Landfill doesn't come into contact with it, is much more complex. Last year, the EPA delayed the release of a clean-up plan for West Lake and has not completed one since. Some local residents and officials have called for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take over, though that would require congressional approval.

During a recent radio interview, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency had "failed" on addressing West Lake and other Superfund sites in the past. While he didn't provide specifics at the time,Pruitt promised to deliver results. "We're gonna get things done at West Lake," he said. "The days of talking are over." Local residents, government officials and Republic Services will all be watching to see what comes next.

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Filed Under: Corporate News Landfill Regulation
Top image credit: Bridgeton Landfill LLC