Action needed now on 2008 recommendations to safely cap hazardous landfill site
Bridgeton - To ensure the safety of Bridgeton residents living and working in the vicinity of the low-level radioactive waste in the Westlake Landfill site here, the landfill’s owner, Republic Services, has formalized an agreement with the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council that will ensure any remedial work will be done by union contractors who have the experience and trained workforces to safely handle the dangerous materials.
Arizona-based Republic Services is the second largest non-hazardous waste management company in America. Republic inherited the problem when it bought a national competitor’s assets.
“This is a major step forward for the people of Bridgeton,” said Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Aboussie. “When the work finally begins, they will know it’s being done in the safest possible manner by men and women who have years of experience in dealing with hazardous waste.”
Aboussie cited the successful cleanups of Weldon Springs and Mallinckrodt Chemical – both completed without a single problem.
“Using local, trained union workers should bring a great deal of peace-of-mind to everyone. Now it’s vital that this project get started. It’s been dragging on for far too long and the community is rightfully nervous and anxious to get this festering problem solved.”
The problem at Westlake was created in 1973 when a trucking company mixed low-level radioactive material with soil and delivered it to the landfill to cover compacted trash. The problem was discovered in 1976, and testing at the site began in 1978. It has been an ongoing bureaucratic nightmare ever since.
The property was declared a Superfund cleanup site in 1990.
In 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final site cleanup plan but put it on hold pending more testing and analysis.
“The people of Bridgeton, north St. Louis County, and St. Charles have been waiting long enough for the EPA to finalize a cleanup plan and do the work,” Aboussie said. “It’s time to make a decision and get started.”
Aboussie said on-site containment with a cap and constant monitoring would likely be the best possible solution to the problem. Trying to dig out the huge landfill and move the contaminated material elsewhere, he said, would be dangerous to residents and workers, and would likely impede Lambert Airport operations.
The EPA will make the decision regarding the remediation process and timing, with technical help from the Army Corps of Engineers. No timetable has been announced.
The entire Missouri congressional delegation — Democrats and Republicans — are working in tandem to force EPA to reach a decision to begin remediation.
Aboussie urged construction workers to contact their representatives and urge them to demand the EPA begin implementing its 2008 recommendations.