- Republic Services has settled a 2013 lawsuit filed by the state of Missouri over the company's handling of an ongoing subsurface fire at the closed Bridgeton Landfill. The agreement includes $16 million worth of payments and full responsibility for continuous monitoring and mitigation.
- Per a consent judgment approved in St. Louis County Circuit Court on June 29, Republic will pay $12.5 million into a community restitution fund to be managed by the St. Louis Community Foundation. Republic will also pay $2 million to reimburse the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for staff time, $1 million for a state civil penalty and $500,000 for damage of natural resources.
- The settlement also includes a long list of maintenance, monitoring and mitigation requirements around air and groundwater quality in the area — all under the DNR's supervision. This is conditioned on subsidiary Bridgeton Landfill, LLC obtaining more than $26 million in bond funding. Republic has agreed to guarantee this performance or face paying the state up to $61.8 million.
Bridgeton entered Republic's portfolio with the 2008 Allied Waste merger and has since become one of the company's more contentious — and expensive — assets. The “underground exothermic heat-generating reaction” in question was first reported to the DNR in December 2010 and is expected to continue for upward of six more years.
Former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit in 2013, alleging violations of state environmental regulations, which led to an initial agreement with the company for ongoing mitigation work. According to an attorney for Bridgeton Landfill LLC, Republic has voluntarily spent more than $242 million on site improvement and remediation in recent years — along with an additional $6.4 million to settle individual claims.
A company statement on the settlement touted "innovative" work around infrastructure and mitigation so far, adding that Bridgeton "is and will remain in a managed state, and the site has become an industry model for responsible landfill management."
Local residents haven't always agreed, leading to years of tough publicity, legal claims and protests. Aside from concerns over Bridgeton itself, a common fear has been the site's proximity to radioactive material at the adjacent West Lake Landfill. This combination has heightened awareness of the sites, including an HBO documentary and copious media coverage.
Bridgeton Landfill LLC is listed as a potentially responsible party in cleaning up the West Lake Superfund site and the EPA has pledged to reinvigorate the planning process for that work. Depending on which plan is selected, that could cost up to $236 million.
Given the level of public attention at both sites, the broader story is far from over, though a statement from Attorney General Josh Hawley offered the possibility that it may at least be entering a new chapter.
"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. Our hope is that this settlement is a first step toward allowing the community to begin the healing process."