EPA Reaches Cleanup Decision for Radioactive West Lake Landfill Superfund Site

By on September 27, 2018

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  After years of bureaucratic inaction and escalating frustration and concern from the surrounding community, the Environmental Protection Agency has finally settled on a strategy to clean up the radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in Bridgeton.

Compared with a proposal from earlier this year, the selected remedy is about $30 million cheaper and will be completed about one year faster.

The agency said late Wednesday that it would slightly modify its earlier proposal to partly remove the site’s contamination, employing “more flexibility” by digging to varying depths to target spots where radioactivity is concentrated. The strategy is outlined in a record of decision, set to be signed Thursday morning in Washington by the agency’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler.

The announcement caps years of anticipation and fierce debate. Concerned area residents have strongly called for full excavation of the site and remote disposal of its contents — the most thorough, and expensive, cleanup possible — while some groups responsible for covering remediation costs sought to have the site capped, which was the least expensive option weighed by the EPA.

The chosen plan falls between those two options, and closely resembles the proposal put forward in February. That strategy, announced by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, was dubbed “Excavation Plus,” and entailed partial removal of the site’s radioactive contaminants, followed by installation of a specially engineered cover as a form of long-term protection.

That proposal called for excavation to a depth of 16 feet across the site, which agency officials said would remove the bulk of the site’s radioactivity. Now, however, excavation depth will vary between 8 feet and 20 feet below the landfill’s surface.

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