An underground fire is burning at a waste dump 1,200 feet away from where 8,700 tons of nuclear waste is stored in Bridgeton, MO near St. Louis; the EPA is cutting and running from the problem, Rolling Stone reports. Our politicians would rather sweep this problem under the rug because it does not fit in with their narrative of more jobs. But the landfill in Bridgeton is burning and the problem is getting worse, no matter how the politicians try to sweep it under the rug.
The Rolling Stone article reports that as the EPA runs and hides from the problem, people are organizing because they are concerned about the long-term problems. Concerns raised are things like cancer risks as well as property values. The property values are especially a concern; after all, who would want to live in a place that smells like rotten eggs or the stench of decay?
The company that owns the landfill, Republic Services, sent out flyers to residents according to Rolling Stone assuring people that there were no safety risks. But the DNR and DHSS and the Missouri Attorney General see it otherwise and are now starting to get involved.
Reports from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) indicate dangerously high levels of benzene and hydrogen sulfide in the air. In March, Missouri's Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) – which has jurisdiction over Bridgeton Landfill – quietly posted an Internet notice cautioning citizens with chronic respiratory diseases to limit time outdoors. A month after Republic distributed its potentially misleading flier, the state attorney general sued the company on eight counts of environmental violations, including pollution and public nuisance. And this week, as part of a settlement set to be announced Tuesday, Republic sent another round of fliers offering to move local families to hotels during a period of increased odor related to remediation efforts.What Republic Services and the politicians don't want you to know is that the landfull fire in question is burning close to 8,700 tons of nuclear waste:
Nickel and Chapman are stay-at-home moms; Chapman has three special-needs kids. Neither of them wants to spend her time worrying about a damn landfill fire. But until someone higher up the power chain intervenes, they have sworn to call municipal offices, file Sunshine requests and post notices to the community's Facebook group, no matter how unsettling the facts they uncover. Scariest of all: The Bridgeton landfill fire is burning close to at least 8,700 tons of nuclear weapons wastes. "To have somebody call you at 11 P.M., and they're in tears, concerned for their family, that's heartbreaking," Chapman tells Rolling Stone. "We're doing this because we don't have a choice. If we don't come together as a community and fight, no one's going to do it for us."Specifically, the Bridgeton fire is 1,200 feet away from West Lake Landfill, where the nuclear waste in question was dumped. Nobody knows what would happen if the fire were to come in contact with the nuclear waste. And nobody at the EPA cares. And that is on top of the difficulty of Bridgeton residents in living normal lives. Attorney General Chris Koster:
"The nearby residents, schools, senior care facilities and a local hospital all have dealt with terrible, ongoing odor problems from the Bridgeton Landfill that have impacted their ability to go about normal activities," Koster said. "For St. Louisans who have not been directly exposed to the site, it is difficult to describe the effects this situation is having on local neighborhoods and businesses. While we have been assured by Republic Services that they have developed a remediation plan and are implementing that plan as expeditiously as possible, it is important that we ensure the corporation’s promises are binding and enforceable in a court of law," Koster added.A copy of the lawsuit is here. The suit filed by the Missouri Attorney General's Office alleges violations of the Missouri Solid Waste Management, Hazardous Waste Management, Clean Water, Air Conservation, and Hazardous Waste Management Laws as well as claims for nuisance, costs, and natural resource damages.
Koster said that, in addition to addressing the odor problems and correcting the environmental violations, his lawsuit seeks to provide remedies to help local residents and businesses deal with the ongoing effects of the burning waste. The lawsuit also seeks to ensure that Republic, rather than taxpayers, pays for the costs of experts hired by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to perform ongoing, intensive environmental testing. Koster noted that DNR has committed to share the experts’ analysis and test results with the public as quickly as possible.
According to the suit, on December 23, 2010, the defendants first reported to the DNR that the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill was experiencing elevated temperatures on some methane gas extraction wells, evidencing a "subsurface smoldering event." Since December 2010, the event has intensified into a subsurface fire.
By July 2012, the state began receiving numerous complaints from neighboring residences and businesses about the odor emitted by the Bridgeton Landfill. Since that time, the suit alleges that the landfill has continued to create odors that undermine the quality of life for people working and living in the area.
In August 2012, the state began monitoring the air surrounding the Bridgeton Landfill, which Koster says has emitted acetaldehyde and benzene into the air in levels that exceed the EPA's regional screening levels. Despite this, the EPA is sticking its head in the sand and doing nothing about this. After all, government is the problem; therefore, the mentality goes, if I get involved, the problem only gets worse.
By January 2013, black liquid leachate flowed out of the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill onto the surface of the ground, entered a forested area, and an intermittent stream. In addition, it is now flowing into the groundwater according to the suit. The state considers these streams to be state property; therefore, they are very quick to act when pollution of streams is involved.
The suit alleges that leachate violates the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure under the Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Law. Since January, the suit alleges that 150,000 gallons of liquid landfill leachate per day is being generated.
The first count of the suit alleges a public nuisance, which involves interference with the rights common to all members of the community in general to live their own lives given that the fire is creating a "highly offensive odor."
For the first count, the suit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against the defendants from causing a nuisance and ordering them to pay damages, issuing an injunction ordering the defendants to take all appropriate steps to mitigate the impact of the nuisance on residents, businesses, and patrons including assuring the safety of workers, addressing the needs of those who have medical conditions, and providing methods by which indoor air quality can be protected; issuing a preliminary and permanent injunction ordering the defendants to develop plans for abatment of the nuisance and submit those plans to the state.
The second count alleges burning solid waste in a sanitary landfill, for which the suit seeks fines of up to $5,000 per day, among other things.
The third count alleges odor pollution in violation of the Missouri Air Conservation Act. For that, among other things, the suit seeks penalties of up to $10,000 per day for each violation.
The fourth count alleges exceeding methane gas limits. The suit seeks to require defendants to develop plans to reduce methane levels to below regulatory limits and submit plans to the state for approval; in addition, the suit seeks damages of up to $5,000 per day.
The fifth count alleges causing pollution of waters of the state. The suit seeks to require defendants to develop a hazardous mitigation plan and seeks damages of up to $10,000 per day.
The sixth count alleges improperly handling hazardous waste. From May 15th, 2012 to at least October 26th, 2012, the Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis tested leachate from the landfill and determined that it was contaminated with benzene. Sometime during December 2012, the district ordered the defendants to cease discharging landfill leachate into its wastewater treatment system. The suit also alleges that the defendants began shipping untreated or undertreated leachate to American Bottoms Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility in Sauget, IL which the suit says tested positive for benzene on January 24, 2013. The suit also alleges that the defendants, since at least December 2012, violated the law by storing, containerizing, failing to label, and transporting hazardous waste improperly.
The suit seeks to force the defendants to develop and manage the leachate in accordance with Missouri law and seeks penalties of up to $10,000 per day that the defendants are in violation.
The seventh count alleges storing solid waste in a manner that the state says violates the law, creates a public nuisance, and adversely affects public health. For this, the suit seeks to force the defendants to develop a plan and seeks damages of up to $5,000 per day.
The eighth count seeks natural resource damages, cleanup costs, state investigative and oversight costs, and legal expenses plus any other relief that may be just and proper.