Coalition Report

By Ed Smith, Safe Energy Director,
Missouri Coalition For The Environment


Smoldering and Radioactive West Lake Landfill Update

A smoldering fire is burning at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in St. Louis County and has been since 2010 with no end in sight. People who live around the site have been concerned for years about how breathing the landfill gas emissions are impacting their health. Reports of headaches, rashes, burning eyes, trouble breathing, and bloody noses have been reported since the odors intensified in 2012.

Newly elected County Executive Steve Stenger quickly directed the St. Louis County Department of Health to conduct a health survey of people who live around the landfill; bringing a lot of hope and some frustration this was not done sooner. The Missouri Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Health and Senior Services (DHSS) have collected and interpreted air data around the landfill for years but this will be the first time a government agency has looked directly at the health of people surrounding the landfill. The DHSS advises that people try and avoid the landfill odor, especially those who have respiratory problems.

The health survey, which is currently under design and subject to change, is expected to look at respiratory illnesses, asthma, and allergies of people living within a two mile radius of the landfill. The County hopes to begin the study sometime this summer.

Regarding the radioactive wastes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it expects to have a decision by the end of 2016 as to whether all, some, or none of the radioactive wastes will be removed from the landfill. The EPA is currently reconsidering its decision in 2008 to permanently leave the radioactive wastes at the unlined landfill in the Missouri River floodplain. The EPA did not consider the risk of a fire impacting the radioactive wastes in its 2008 decision, which is one of many reasons why MCE would like to see Congress transfer jurisdiction of the radioactive wastes to the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps is tasked with cleaning up radioactive wastes throughout the country that are the remnants of processing uranium for nuclear weapons during WWII and the Cold War.

Visit the Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s website at moenviron.org to sign a letter supporting the Corps of Engineers taking over jurisdiction of the radioactive wastes and to stay updated on the St. Louis County health survey of people around the landfill.