Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt says he wants to excavate and remove in five years all radioactive material that poses a public health risk at the West Lake Landfill in the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton. Rep. Mark Matthiesen, R-Maryland Heights, says the plan would remove about 70% of the contaminated waste. Pruitt is also proposing to permanently cap the site.
He says the $236 million remedy would specifically minimize the community’s impact from odor to the chance of a new smoldering event. An underground fire at the neighboring Bridgeton landfill began around 2010 and continues to move closer to West Lake landfill.
The logistical questions remaining include what happens to the radioactive material? Will it be transported from the site or burned? How will the plan specifically involve the elimination of any groundwater contamination risks? What costs will the companies connected to the landfill, like Republic Services, be responsible for? When will the work begin?
Missourinet’s inquiry to the EPA has not been returned.
The St. Louis area landfill contains about 100,000 tons of World War Two era nuclear weapons contamination. Last month, Kim Visintine of the Coldwater Creek group told Missourinet people living in the Coldwater Creek area have reported a host of health battles, including cancer, autoimmune disease, some cannot have children and some children have been born with deformities.
A letter issued in October with the support of 18 State Senators dismissed the existence of health risks at West Lake and states that circumstances at the nearby Coldwater Creek have been found to be wholly different. Today’s EPA announcement gives a different answer – that the public’s health is at risk from the area contamination.
“The people of the St. Louis region deserve clarity and answers with respect to the remediation of the West Lake Landfill,” says Pruitt. “I promised them an answer, and today I am making good on that commitment. This decision demonstrates my vision for the Superfund program. Through leadership and responsiveness to communities, we will make decisions that protect public health, comply with the law, and hold potentially responsible parties accountable.”
Eastern Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay, D, calls today’s revised cleanup plan announcement a “huge victory for our long-suffering community and a major step towards environmental justice”. Clay has been one of the Trump administration’s vocal critics.
“This nuclear waste, which dates back to the Manhattan Project, is a 75-year old problem. The United States government created this waste and we have a responsibility to clean it up,” says Clay. “I want to thank EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for his leadership in helping reach this decision. And I especially want to salute the courage and sacrifice of Just Moms STL, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and the many citizen environmental advocates whose dogged determination and faith have led us to this landmark decision that will keep our community safe.”
Rep. Mark Matthiesen, R-Maryland Heights, whose district includes the contaminated site, says “science has won” and Pruitt’s proposed cleanup remedy is carefully thought out. Matthiesen goes on to say that he still worries about contamination in nearby neighborhoods. Matthiesen tells Missourinet an EPA official briefed him and the Bridgeton mayor about the plan this morning at the state Capitol in Jefferson City.
Pruitt says the plan will be issued soon and available for public review and comment.