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EPA announces $236M plan to clean up suburban St. Louis landfill

The EPA has announced a $236 million plan to clean up a suburban St. Louis landfill where Cold War-era nuclear waste was illegally dumped decades ago.

CBS St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a $236 million plan to clean up a suburban St. Louis landfill where Cold War-era nuclear waste was illegally dumped decades ago. The EPA said Thursday the plan calls for removing all of the radioactive contamination that poses a health risk by partially excavating the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton.

Crews will also install a permanent "engineered cover system" at the site to ensure long-term protection of the five-year project, according to CBS St. Louis.  

The site was added to the Superfund list in 1990. The area is especially concerning to nearby residents because it sits next to another landfill where an underground fire smolders. State and federal officials have downplayed the risk that the smoldering could reach the radioactive material. 

Republic Services owns the landfill.

Bridgeton Landfill, LLC., a subsidiary of Republic Services, released a written statement to CBS St. Louis saying it is "pleased that the EPA has finally ended decades of study and again is issuing a proposed plan for the site." 

Republic Services is among three entities responsible for the cleanup cost.

But some local activists and officials say the plan, which would remove 70 percent or more of the material, doesn't go far enough. 

"Partial removal is not acceptable. It means high levels of radioactivity will be left behind with the potential for water or airborne contamination into the future, creating unnecessary long-term risks to the St. Louis region," said Ed Smith, Policy Director with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger posted a statement saying, "I am disappointed in the EPA's decision. I, like many residents, believe the EPA should have elected to excavate and remove all hazardous material from West Lake Landfill."