Radioactive waste dumped in the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton has contaminated trees and groundwater outside the perimeter of the landfill, according to reports released Thursday by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.
Inspections of the site also show that an underground fire in the adjoining Bridgeton Landfill continues to move closer to the radioactive waste, the reports say.
“Republic Services does not have this site under control,” Koster said in a statement. “Not only does the (Bridgeton) landfill emit a foul odor, it appears that it has poisoned its neighbors’ groundwater and vegetation. The people of Missouri can’t afford to wait any longer — Republic needs to get this site cleaned up.”
The reports from Koster are the latest maneuver in a lawsuit he filed in 2013 against the landfills’ owner Republic Services for environmental violations. As the two sides gear up for a court battle next year, dueling experts have released conflicting interpretations of temperature and other data from the landfills.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources ordered more protective measures from Republic Services last month after a state consultant reported rising temperatures in the area known as the “neck” that connects the two landfills.
But during a recent interview and tour of the site, Republic Services’ environmental manager Brian Power said the company has successfully prevented the smoldering from coming closer to the radioactive waste.
New gas wells installed in recent years have likely helped cool off the landfill from previous recorded highs of around 300 degrees, Power said.
Other experts hired by the state, including landfill fire specialists, geologists and engineers, believe the underground fire has reached beyond the gas wells as it migrates toward the radioactive waste, according to the new reports.
An analysis of trees along St. Charles Rock Road across from the landfill’s entrance was included among the nine new reports. The trees’ roots have soaked up radiological and other potentially toxic materials including benzene from groundwater contaminated by the landfill, according to professors at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
A spokesman for Republic Services said there is no public health threat and called the state’s reports “irresponsible.”
“Regrettably, the State appears intent on making conditions seem scary, which only exacerbates public angst and confusion,” said Richard Callow. “Bridgeton Landfill is in a managed state. It is safe, and it is intensely monitored.”