St. Louis moms up in arms over nuclear waste fears

ST. LOUIS-- Thousands of gallons of tainted water spilled last night at the Bridgeton landfill near St. Louis where an underground fire has been burning next to an old nuclear waste dump.

Underground fire burning near nuclear waste in Missouri

Mothers from North Saint Louis County are convinced their local landfill is on the brink of a nuclear emergency putting their families at risk.

They carried their petitions in a child's casket -- demanding the governor declare a state of emergency and chanted, "Governor Nixon, save the day, make the fire go away."

Karen Nickell organized the group which gathers in each other's basements pouring over charts and looking up chemical terminology about the West Lake Landfill.

"It breaks my heart to know that it takes moms of a community to devote almost 24 hours a day to do what agencies and elected officials should have been doing all along," Nickell said.

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Moms and their children carry a child-sized casket filled with petitions for Gov. Nixon demanding that a state of emergency is declared. CBSNews.com

Nickell was among hundreds of residents at a raucous meeting this week demanding answers from environmental officials. "We are sick. Our kids are sick and we are dying," Nickell said.

Their primary concern stems from sites where waste from America's nuclear weapons program is buried in a landfill.

Fears over underground hot spot near nuclear waste in Missouri

The other landfill has an underground fire that's been smoldering for five years. They are now thought to be about 1,000 feet apart.

Just last night, there was a 10,000 gallon spill of sewage from the landfill. The sewage is now being tested.

Ed Smith is an environmentalist who's been studying the site. "The folks around the St. Louis metro area need to be paying attention. We're talking about the possibility, if there's a surface area for radioactivity leaving the site."

Republic Services purchased the landfill in 2008. Russ Knocke is the company spokesman and says they've spent $150 million dollars to control and monitor the fire and don't think disaster is possible.

"All of those investments is part of the commitment we have to do the right thing and to do the responsible thing and insure that the site is safe and remains in a managed state," Knocke said.

Many landfill area residents have asked the landfill owners and state officials to buy back their houses so they can move. They say they don't want future generations to be in the same fight.