Coalition Report

By Ed Smith,
Policy Director
Missouri Coalition
for the Environment

West Lake Landfill: EPA Signs Record of Decision & State Settles Smoldering Fire Lawsuit

For the first time ever, the federal government committed to remove radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. The landfill sits in the Missouri River floodplain, in a seismic zone, near a neighborhood, businesses, and a hospital. This victory comes after years of indecision by the EPA and renewed pressure by the community to get the waste out of the floodplain and away from people. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will remove up to 70% of the overall radioactivity at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in St. Louis County, according to Administrator Wheeler, who signed the final Record of Decision (ROD) on September 27, 2018. The radioactive material removed will be sent to an out-of-state facility designed to contain such toxic substances.

Our community could not have accomplished this outcome without the education and mobilization of thousands of Missouri residents. Administrator Wheeler recognized Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) at the signing of the decision when thanking groups who influenced the decision to excavate and dispose of the radioactive material. While this announcement is good news for the St. Louis region, MCE will continue to ask for full removal and a buyout of the nearby families. The decision making process is not finished at West Lake as the EPA will issue a future ROD on how to address radioactive groundwater below the landfill. Meanwhile, the ongoing smoldering fire that started in 2010 remains about 700 feet away from known areas of radioactive contamination at West Lake.

In 2013, then-Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit against the landfill owner, Republic Services, which was settled by now-Attorney General Josh Hawley on June 29, 2018. Part of the settlement includes $12.5 million for “restitution” to the community. The money will be disbursed by the St. Louis Community Foundation within a four-mile radius of the landfill to nonprofit organizations working for the betterment of the area. The foundation is conducting stakeholder meetings to identify potential projects before presenting the options at a public meeting, where it will receive feedback from affected families and community members. Other monetary compensation went to local schools and reimbursement to the Dept. of Natural Resources.

The outcome of the EPA decision and the smoldering fire legal settlement could not have happened without broad, grassroots engagement of government agencies and elected officials. The community will need to remain engaged in order to ensure the long-term safety of people and the protection of natural resources. Go to www.moenvironment.org for more information.