Community clashes with EPA Over Proposed West Lake Landfill Cleanup

By on March 16, 2018

From The St. Louis American:  In a packed auditorium in Bridgeton on March 5, residents of the area surrounding St. Louis’ radioactive West Lake Landfill stood up for what they want out of the cleanup plan for their community – and the solution they’re advocating for is not the one the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prefers.

Bridgeton Councilman Randy Hein was one of many residents who stood up to speak at the EPA-hosted public meeting which took place at Bridgeton’s Machinists Union Hall. The community is home to several areas where radioactive material was disposed of and which is responsible for highly elevated levels of radiation, including in some resident’s homes. Many activists also believe it is linked to incidences of rare cancers in the area.

A crowd of over a thousand came to hear the EPA’s plans to clean up radioactivity in West Lake Landfill and the Coldwater Creek area, but Hein was one of the majority who was let down.

“How many more casualties?” Hein asked. “How many more? I say a lot more, if you let this happen.”

Hein, and many of his fellow attendees, were unhappy with the plan the EPA chose as its “preferred alternative” for cleaning up the sites. Alternative 4, one of eight that were discussed during the EPA’s presentation, would require the removal of high-level radioactive materials up to 16 feet below the ground. The site would then be covered by an engineered protective cap. The surrounding area would be monitored long-term for radioactivity and water safety.

“RIM [radiologically impacted material] located at depths greater than 16 feet, regardless of concentration, would be left in place,” the EPA’s documentation on the proposed plans reads.

That was not good enough for many community members at the meeting. Many of them favored the EPA’s Alternative 7, which would require the total removal of radioactive material from the site. It would also cost approximately $455 million to Alternative 4’s $236 million and take an estimated 14.6 years to complete, in contrast to five years for Alternative 4.

Harvey Ferdman, chair of the West Lake Community Advisory Group, was the first to speak during the meeting’s public comment portion.

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