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Environmentalists/Neighbors Cry Foul Over Landfill Fire Plan

PHOTO: Bridgeton landfill's underground fire is drawing fire over odors and safety concerns. Photo courtesy: Missouri DNR
PHOTO: Bridgeton landfill's underground fire is drawing fire over odors and safety concerns. Photo courtesy: Missouri DNR
July 18, 2013

ST. LOUIS - It's been a smelly, hot summer around the Bridgeton landfill, and some neighbors and activists think the landfill owner's plan to keep an underground fire from spreading stinks even more.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is scheduled this week to consider Republic Services' court-ordered plan that outlines certain remedial actions aimed at keeping the fire away from an old radioactive waste site 1,200 feet away.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment wants the DNR to reject the plan. Ed Smith, the coalition's safe-energy director, said company officials have ignored the recommendations of the DNR's consultant.

"They're not being good corporate citizens," he said, "The contingency plan is an affront to the community around this landfill. It does not take their interests into consideration."

Smith offered some examples:

* The consultant wants the company to take action if the temperature underground reaches 170 degrees. Republic recommends allowing 220 degrees.

* The consultant recommends that Republic build a barrier at the neck of the radioactive landfill. The company plan recommends the barrier only if the fire spreads halfway in.

Environmentalists aren't the only ones crying foul. Neighbors are calling on the state to take over the situation completely.

Republic Services officials have said it's making progress in containing the smoldering, which began two and a half years ago, and that its initial containment work has kept the fire from spreading.

However, Smith said the spreading earlier this year was documented at a rate of three feet per day, which raised the concern about it spreading into the radioactive waste.

"If the fire were to reach the middle of the North Quarry," he said, "it'll be on its way towards the area where the radioactive wastes were dumped 40 years ago."

Smith said Republic's contingency plan also ignores the consultant's recommendation concerning how much underground carbon monoxide should be considered dangerous.

"The DNR landfill-fire expert recognizes 1,000 parts per million. Republic Services is using 3,000 parts per million."

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment wants the DNR to follow the recommendations of a landfill-fire expert it hired. The company's contingency plan was part of an agreement between Republic Services and Missouri Attorney General Chris Kostner that halted Kostner's lawsuit over environmental violations.

Smith's group will review the plan with community members at 7 p.m. July 25 at Pattonville High School, 2497 Creve Coeur Mill Road, Maryland Heights.

More information is online at moenviron.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO