State, St. Louis-area landfill reach agreement

Thursday, June 19, 2014 | 5:47 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office and the owners of the Bridgeton Landfill reached an agreement Thursday on measures aimed at better controlling underground smoldering and reducing a strong odor that for months has troubled residents in a densely populated area of suburban St. Louis.

The agreement with owner Republic Services includes new measures to fight a noxious smell that can spread for miles and to monitor the migration of the subsurface smoldering, which is generating concerns because it is near the burial site of Cold War-era nuclear waste.

"Today's order does not, by a long shot, resolve the case against Republic," Koster said at a news conference in St. Louis after the agreement was signed in circuit court. "It is, however, an important step in holding Republic accountable and ensuring that the company takes whatever steps are necessary to protect the health and quality of life in and around the Bridgeton area."

Koster sued Republic Services last year. Although the two sides previously reached agreement on implementation of several measures to both contain the smoldering and cut the odor, Thursday's agreement is an amendment to that pact. The agreement does not end the lawsuit, scheduled to go to trial in August 2015.

It requires several measures to knock down the smell, including additional flares to burn off odorous gases and installation of a vapor recovery system. It also requires more extensive monitoring, including carbon monoxide testing, to gauge if subsurface temperatures are rising and to better understand the location and movement of the smoldering.

Republic also agreed to reimburse the state up to $1.5 million for monitor and oversight costs.

The sprawling Bridgeton Landfill is adjacent to West Lake Landfill, a Superfund site where nuclear waste was dumped about 40 years ago and is overseen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has not yet decided whether to try and remove the toxic waste or encapsulate it.

Republic Services is already spending millions of dollars to both isolate the smoldering and to eliminate the odor. Company spokesman Richard Callow said the new agreement recognizes that many issues at the landfill have been resolved.

"Ultimately, it is our hope that this Amendment will begin to bring some peace of mind to the surrounding community that odors have been vastly reduced," Callow said in an emailed statement.

Koster said he is also "frustrated" by the EPA's pace on moving ahead with construction of a barrier that would help ensure that the Bridgeton Landfill's smoldering never reaches the nuclear waste. Koster said the EPA has also failed to respond to his request for radiological readings along roads where material is hauled to the landfill.

In an emailed statement, the EPA said Thursday the "level and complexity of scientific and engineering work that is required by this project makes assigning timelines extremely difficult." It also said it would work with the Army Corps of Engineers and "potentially responsible parties to move expediently but responsibly."

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