- During a recent interview with St. Louis radio station KMOX, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt criticized the Obama administration's record on addressing Superfund sites such as the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, MO and promised to make the site a priority.
- "The EPA failed," said Pruitt. "That's a situation where there's not even been a decision made about what remedial steps should be taken to clean up West Lake and it's been over 20 years."
- When pressed on what he planned to do at the site Pruitt did not provide specifics, though he did promise to expedite a remediation plan. "We're gonna get things done at West Lake," he said. "The days of talking are over."
The EPA delayed the release of a cleanup plan last fall, leading to renewed calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take over the project. The presence of radioactive material — in close proximity to an ongoing underground thermal reaction at the Bridgeton Landfill — has led to increasingly tense relations between operator Republic Services, local residents and the EPA.
While Republic has reportedly spent more than $200 million to manage the situation, there is no clear end in sight. This issue has even been raised elsewhere in Missouri, albeit unsuccessfully, in an effort to scuttle an unrelated contract. In the meantime, local residents continue to ask for new tests on their properties and Missouri's state legislature is currently considering a $12.5 million plan to purchase 91 homes near the site.
Pruitt provided few specifics about the EPA's next steps, though his comments do mark a notable shift since January. When asked about West Lake on a written questionnaire during his Senate confirmation process Pruitt cited unfamiliarity with the issue and said it would be "inappropriate" to prejudge any decisions about cleanup jurisdiction. Now, he sees cleaning up the more than 1,330 currently designated Superfund sites as a top priority. The Obama administration expressed similar views and sought to highlight the potential economic benefits derived from site remediation. How Pruitt plans to address West Lake differently — and how much will be allocated for Superfund sites in the upcoming budget — remains unclear.