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EPA official's letter says underground fire at Bridgeton landfill not moving

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BRIDGETON, Missouri — The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't believe an underground fire smoldering at the Bridgeton Landfill in Missouri is moving toward an adjacent landfill that contains radioactive waste, according to an official's letter.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/14QB8BJ ) obtained the letter written by Karl Brooks, administrator of the agency's Region 7. The letter was addressed to Lois Gibbs, head of the Washington-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

"While I understand the public's concern about the movement of the (subsurface smoldering), at this time the EPA does not believe that the data collected thus far substantiates a conclusion that the (burning) is moving toward the radiologically-impacted material," Brooks wrote in the letter sent last week.

He said the agency doesn't think the radioactive waste would be released with any gases emanating from the adjacent West Lake Landfill. Waste from nuclear weapons production was illegally dumped there 40 years ago.

If the Bridgeton Landfill fire does reach West Lake, it would release more gas, but "we don't expect any gasses to contain (radioactive material)," Brooks said.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 13, 2014 photo, a dump truck and backhoe put fill dirt into the Bridgeton landfill, where portions of the site have been sinking because of smoldering underground waste, in Bridgeton, Mo. Some parts of the landfill have sunk almost 30 feet while trash has smoldered over the last several years. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jacob Barker)  EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT
In this Aug. 13, 2014 photo, a dump truck and backhoe put fill dirt into the Bridgeton landfill, where portions of the site have been sinking because of smoldering underground waste, in Bridgeton, Mo. Some parts of the landfill have sunk almost 30 feet while trash has smoldered over the last several years. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jacob Barker) EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT

Engineers with Republic Services, which owns the Bridgeton Landfill, have released a study saying they see little risk for the spread of radioactive material if the fire reaches West Lake.

But the consultant for the state's Department of Natural Resources has said before that radioactive material could spread through smoke or water vapor if the smoldering reaches the surface. A department spokeswoman said consultant Todd Thalhamer hasn't indicated anything that's changed from his assessment.

"The department and the EPA communicate on a weekly basis, but we are unable to speak for the EPA regarding their assessment," spokeswoman Gena Terlizzi said in an email.

The EPA is still evaluating a barrier that would separate the two landfills. The federal agency is charged with deciding how to clean up or isolate the radioactive waste.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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