Missouri Lawmakers Differ on Fixing St. Louis Area Landfill

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — There are competing ideas among Missouri lawmakers for cleaning up the West Lake Landfill Superfund Site west of St. Louis.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt said earlier this month that the government’s taken too long to address the issues while declaring that a decision would be announced in January.

“There’s proposals that I’m looking at this month to make a decision on West Lake. It’s a very important issue to the people of St. Louis,” says Pruitt.

Back in May, bipartisan legislation was introduced by Missouri members of Congress to transfer management of the site from the EPA to the Army Corp of Engineers.

Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill teamed up on a measure in the Senate, while GOP member Ann Wagner and Democrat William Lace Clay, both St. Louis area Congress members, file a companion bill in the House.

In October, Republican state Senator Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City sent a letter to the EPA’s regional office in Kansas City, asking the agency to follow its own 2008 recommendation to physically cap and isolate the material at the landfill forever.

Kehoe said in his letter that there continues to be no evidence of health risks to individuals living or working near the West Lake site, and that excavating the waste would present unintended hazards.

17 other Republican State Senators signed onto Kehoe’s letter, which claims excavation and transportation of waste would create unnecessary exposure and public safety risks on roadways and railways.

The correspondence also points out there’s concern among wildlife and aviation experts that excavation would lead to the risk of bird strikes to aircraft approaching and leaving St. Louis’ Lambert Airport.

Kehoe’s letter expressed sympathy to those who worry their health may have been compromised by the legacy of the Manhattan Project, a World War II nuclear bomb development program which led to the dumping of contaminated waste at the West Lake site in the 1970’s.

An underground fire at the nearby Bridgeton Landfill, which has been burning since at least 2010, is making its way toward the radioactive material at West Lake.

While Kehoe’s letter dismisses the existence of health risks at West Lake, it states that circumstances at nearby Coldwater Creek have been found to be wholly different.

Kim Visintine of the Coldwater Creek group told Missourinet earlier this month people living in that area have reported a list of health battles, including cancer, autoimmune disease, some cannot have children and some children born with deformities.

EPA head Pruitt told a U.S. House committee in early December that he’ll release a decision next month on what will be done at West Lake Landfill.   The site will either be capped, as Kehoe and the group of Republican State Senators want, or it will be excavated.

Meanwhile, Democratic State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal of University City refiled the same measure she put forth last session to assist homeowners in contaminated areas.

Under the plan, if a federal or state environmental or state health agency determined a home to be uninhabitable due to contamination from certain radiation, the owner would be eligible to sell the home for fair market value through the Missouri contaminated home acquisition program administered by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Chappelle-Nadal’s bill calls for up to $12.5 million to be dedicated to achieving the goal.

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