Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal wants Gov. Jay Nixon to call a state of emergency regarding the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills. An underground fire has been burning at Bridgeton, near St. Louis, since 2010. A report released by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster in September concluded that the fire could reach the adjacent West Lake Landfill — which contains radioactive waste — in three to six months.
Landfill owner Republic Services said it does regular testing at the sites and maintains they are safe. The company released a statement to KMOV on Thursday: "The subsurface reaction is not in the North Quarry. It is not moving toward the low-level radiologically-impacted material, it is moving the opposite direction. The AG's expert knows all of this. It is sad that feckless communication has made some people afraid. They should not be."
At a neighborhood meeting Thursday night, many said they were not aware of the problem until school districts notified parents that they were working on disaster plans. The St. Louis County Director of Emergency Management told residents to have their own disaster plan if the fire reaches the waste, KMOV reported.
KSDK reported that EPA scientists said there's very little chance toxic fumes could come from the landfills and affect area residents. Al Jazeera quoted an e-mail from EPA in May: "There is no credible scientific data indicating off-site human exposure to radiological contaminants from the West Lake Landfill." EPA also dismissed a 2014 test at a ballfield that found a radioactive form of lead that can come from decaying uranium particles.
There are 3 million people in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and they are growing desperate for action.
"We have these two problems that could create bigger problems," Sen. Roy Blunt told KSDK. "The EPA says it's nothing to worry about, but people are worried and the EPA needs a conclusion that they have a plan or turn it over to the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers, who I would have more confidence in."
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) ordered Republic Services to add more safeguards and develop a plan to prevent the spread of the fire. Koster sued Republic in March 2013, with a trial set for next year.