The odor coming from the Bridgeton Landfill is foul-smelling, but it’s not a health threat, according to testing done by the state this month.
On Friday, the Department of Natural Resources quietly released a brief summary of air sampling results on its website.
An area deep within the inactive landfill has been smoldering for more than two years, emitting a foul odor that has generated complaints from people who live and work in the area.
The landfill operator, Phoenix-based Republic Services Inc., says it’s spending millions of dollars to address the problem. But the DNR issued an order two weeks ago notifying the company that the odor is a public nuisance and violates state law. It ordered the company to pay for air tests conducted by the state.
Air samples were taken on Feb. 2 and Feb. 4 at locations around the landfill and in nearby residential areas.
Samples analyzed by the Department of Health and Human Services for volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, aldehydes and other gases and compounds. In both cases, the department concluded that “concentrations did not exceed a level of concern for public health.”
However, one sample collected near the landfill boundary had a benzene concentration above the level considered safe for long-term exposure.
Spokespeople for the DNR and Health Department couldn’t be reached late Friday.
Kathleen Logan Smith, environmental policy director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said that continued testing was needed and that the state should release the air data and more detail about the testing methodology.
“We don’t want this to be a one-time deal to shut everybody up,” she said. “We want to make sure their testing is ongoing and has some integrity.”
The environmental group is also concerned about the potential spread of the landfill fire to the West Lake Landfill, where Cold War-era radioactive waste was illegally dumped. The Environmental Protection Agency says the fire is 1,200 feet from the radioactive material.
The Health Department said gamma radiation readings taken during the air sampling were within normal levels. And laboratory analysis by two different laboratories confirmed no radioactivity was detected above normal background levels.