Saint Louis, Mo. — Republic Services, Inc. may be encountering friction with some local communities over the environmental hazards of the Bridgeton and West Lake Landfills, but the waste management company appears to be greasing the wheels of Missouri’s state lawmakers.
Since August of this year, the company has dropped $70,000 into the state campaign committees of both parties. Republic Services gave $50,000 to Missouri Republicans in matching $25,000 donations to their House and Senate campaign committees. Between those two donations, they gave matching $10,000 checks to House and Senate committee’s for Missouri Democrats.
Republic Services has struggled to maintain the exploding costs and immense public backlash related to their management of two landfills in the St. Louis region. When the company bought Allied Waste in 2008, it also acquired the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills. In 2010, an underground fire was detected in the closed Bridgeton landfill, something the company refers to as a “smoldering event.”
The fumes of the fire created a noxious odor that persists even today, and environmental groups quickly became involved about the nearby West Lake location, which contains illegally dumped radioactive waste from more than 4 decades ago.
In 2013, Attorney General Chris Koster brought a lawsuit against the company, forcing them to take several steps to ease the damage being done at Bridgeton. Since the Bridgeton location was capped and new wastewater treatment facility was installed, a final regulatory and legal battle looms over what to do with West Lake.
The Waste Lake Landfill will be capped, but the company is now expected to battle environmental activists as well as state lawmakers and federal regulators over whether or not to completely remove the radioactive waste at the sight. Removal will cost several times more than capping, and could cost $400 million.
Only a few weeks after the company’s most recent donations, a new and well-known figure began acquiring even more stock in the company to become one of its largest investors.
Bill Gates’ investment firm, Cascade Investment, have invested in Republic Services for several years. But in just the past few weeks Cascade has acquired millions more shares of the company and Gates is said to now hold more than a 15 percent stake in Republic Services, making him one of its single largest investors with more than 100 million shares.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.