Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released nine new expert witness reports on September 3 that collectively paint a troubling picture of the environment surrounding the landfill site.
The reports identify contamination in groundwater outside the landfill perimeter, including radiological contamination detected in trees surrounding the site. Additionally, data indicate that the underground fire has moved past the two rows of interceptor wells positioned at the neck of the landfill, closer to the North Quarry.
One report discovered volatile organic compounds, including benzene, acetone, and 2-butanone, in high concentrations in the groundwater in wells outside the perimeter of the landfill.
Two experts concluded the underground fire has moved outside of the containment areas – in the direction of the radiological area that contains waste from the United States’ initial atomic bomb program, the Manhattan Project.
A civil engineer concluded what he described as a “catastrophic event” at the landfill “was foreseeable and preventable.” He stated that business decisions by the landfill’s operators to overdraw gas-collection systems and inadequately maintain the soil cover on the site were factors causing the fire to occur.
Koster’s office stated the reports were gathered to better understand the facts relevant to the lawsuit Koster filed in 2013 against Republic Services for alleged violations of law associated with the still-burning underground fire.
The lawsuit against Republic Services is set for trial in March 2016. It alleges that Republic’s management of the landfill was negligent and that the company has violated the state’s environmental laws. The suit seeks penalties, actual damages, and punitive damages as a consequence of Republic’s allegedly unlawful conduct.
“This is the second time in the last year that radioactivity has been found in places that were supposedly clean,” said Ed Smith with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “It further demonstrates the need for President Obama or our federally elected officials to put the Army Corps of Engineers in charge immediately so the site can be properly characterized and remediated in a timely manner.”
The Attorney General’s Office stated it released the reports because they contain information that is important to the health and safety of the people who live and work near the landfill.
“It is past time for Republic Services or the government to provide a voluntary buyout for people living within a one mile radius of the landfill,” said Kathy Bell, a nearby resident. “We are being choked to death at night and throughout the day by this nasty landfill, and we cannot take it any longer.”
Republic responded via a statement from Richard Callow, spokesman.
"The key aspects of the state’s expert reports are simply irresponsible. 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,” Callow’s statement read.
“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.”
Callow dismissed the reports as “just one phase of ongoing litigation” and said the landfill operators will submit its own expert reports “on or before October 16."
All nine reports – “West Lake Landfill Organic Pollutant Phytoforensic Assessment,” “Westlake Landfill Phytoforensic Assessment using Gamma Spectroscopy,” “Westlake Landfill Tree Core Analysis,” “Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill Groundwater Investigation,” “Subsurface Self Sustaining Reaction Incident,” “Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill Incident,” “Field Inspection Reports,” “Bridgeton Landfill Downwind Odor Assessment,” “Feasibility Study-Groundwater Remediation” – are posted at http://ago.mo.gov.