Why do Republican leaders in a rural county outside Kansas City care so much about a radioactive landfill in Bridgeton? They are concerned about the possibility of nuclear waste being hauled through their area. They also have connections to the landfill's owner, Republic Services.
Republic Services recently launched the Coalition to Keep Us Safe, a lobbying group to promote keeping the nuclear waste buried at West Lake Landfill. The coalition's hired spokeswoman Molly Teichman is from Warrensburg, one hour southeast of Kansas City. Teichman is a conversative blogger who is connected to the Lafayette County Republicans. State Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer is a Republican from Lafayette County and is an outspoken supporter of the coalition. Teichman and Kolkmeyer are longtime friends of Kay Hoflander, chair of the Lafayette County Republicans, who has distributed press releases for the coalition.
Hoflander's son, Russ Knocke, is the director of field communications and public affairs for landfill owner Republic Services.
"My mom is a volunteer for a lot of righteous causes," Knocke said. "Now that she's become aware of some of the issues, she certainly doesn't like the idea of waste being transported through the community."
Hundreds of residents of Bridgeton, Maryland Heights and nearby areas have been pushing for years for the cleanup of West Lake Landfill. An underground fire at the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill has brought increased attention from Missouri's U.S. senators, local environmental groups and the media. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reevaluating its 2008 decision to place a rock, clay and soil cap over West Lake because of public opposition and concerns about the fire, which could damage the cap.
Under the EPA’s Superfund site program, Republic Services is at least partly responsible for the cleanup costs at West Lake. One of the options the EPA is considering would involve the excavation and transport of the waste by covered rail to a nuclear storage facility in the western U.S. Nuclear waste from other sites downtown and near the airport has been hauled out of the St. Louis area this way since the 1990s.
Rep. Kolkmeyer said he wasn't aware that nuclear waste is already hauled through Missouri and doesn't want to add to it. The coalition's spokeswoman Teichman said she's "only a one-issue person" and hasn't studied the history of waste transportation in the state.
Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said his group is more concerned about the future for other nuclear wastes.
"If people are worried about the transportation of low-level radioactive wastes across Missouri, I hope they join our efforts to stop producing high-level nuclear waste at Ameren's Callaway 1 nuclear reactor, which will need to be transported off-site at some point in the future," Smith said.
The coalition against hauling the West Lake waste claims 30 supporters from across the state who are labeled concerned citizens, veterans or environmentalists. They are listed on the website only by a first name and last initial. The coalition's spokeswoman Teichman said none of them can be interviewed because it is an emotional topic and they would be subject to ridicule.