JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Several expert witnesses gathered by the state for a lawsuit against Republic Services Inc. and management of the West Lake Landfill say that radiation and other pollutants have migrated off-site, a serious concern for nearby residents.
Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against Republic in 2013 for alleged wrongdoing associated with their management of the still-burning sub-surface fire still burning at West Lake in Bridgeton, where radioactive materials have also been potentially improperly stored.
Koster’s office gathered expert testimony to “better understand the facts” and, of course, shore up the strongest case against Republic as the state now looks at an ever-exploding cost of containing and cleaning up the area that many have dubbed an environmental disaster.
Koster’s office released the findings of 9 studies gathered by 7 expert witnesses. The witnesses include Dr. Joel Burken, Dr. Shoaib Usman, Peter Price with the Missouri Geological Survey, Dr. Tony Sperling, Dr. Ali Abedini, Tom Thalmer – a civil engineer, Dr. Timothy Stark, Don Wright – a consulting specialist in odor assessment, and Kenny Hemmen, a registered geologist at Geotechnology Inc.
“These reports underscore what has been clear from the beginning—Republic Services does not have this site under control,” Koster said in a statement. “Not only does the landfill emit a foul odor, it appears that it has poisoned its neighbors’ groundwater and vegetation. The people of Missouri can’t afford to wait any longer—Republic needs to get this site cleaned up.”
Koster’s office made the reports available to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the EPA, St. Louis County Public Health Department, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, with the encouragement to take any action as needed in response to the findings.
The state’s suit against Republic Services is set to go to trial next spring. In his lawsuit, Koster will seek penalties; actual damages and punitive damages for Republic’s alleged negligent management of the landfill and violation of state environmental law.
“The key aspects of the State’s expert reports are simply irresponsible,” said a spokesperson for the landfill. “Many of their taxpayer-funded conclusions are overstated, others are scientifically wrong. Regrettably, the State appears intent on making conditions seem scary, which only exacerbates public angst and confusion. Despite the theatrics, the State’s experts found no threat to public health or safety that actually exists. In addition, the State’s reports do not provide any new data indicating subsurface reaction movement in the direction of radiologically impacted materials. Bridgeton Landfill is in a managed state. It is safe, and it is intensely monitored. The State’s expert reports are just one phase of ongoing litigation. Bridgeton Landfill will submit its expert — and scientifically based — reports on or before October 16.”
Links to each report in full can be found here.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.