Great Rivers testimony leads to better testing to protect citizens from radioactive waste

In 2009 we asked the EPA to reconsider its decision to leave the radioactive wastes in West Lake Landfill in a floodplain of the Missouri River. Activists continue to work on cleaning up this Superfund site.

Every five years or so, any landfill in Missouri will need to renew their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which defines acceptable levels of pollution from the site and any necessary testing that must be done to ensure safety of the surrounding residents. These renewal periods include an opportunity for public comments.

Great Rivers attorney, Bob Menees, and Ed Smith, Policy Director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, each offered testimony at a public hearing on October 11, 2017 regarding the renewal for the Bridgeton Landfill’s NPDES permit. The permit that had been in operation for the past five years did not require any radioactive testing of the site. Given the radioactive wastes that are buried within the adjacent West Lake Landfill, we felt that radioactive testing was a necessary precaution for human health and the environment and urged the Missouri DNR to add this requirement to the renewed permit. Our testimony called for testing at the outfalls nearest the radioactive waste. Outfalls are the places where stormwater from the landfill are discharged from the site, and from where they make their way into the waterways we use for recreation, drinking, and more.


Map of the landfill site demonstrating the outfall sites

On February 28, 2018, the Missouri DNR issued a new permit which requires radioactive testing at outfalls 007, 008, & 009 for the following radionuclides: gross alpha, beta particle and photon radioactivity (gross beta), total uranium, total radium, radium-226, and radium-228. In addition, based on Bob’s testimony the DNR added monitoring for leachate at two outfalls where they had not originally planned to monitor for those pollutants. This is important because leachate is the wastewater produced by landfills, which contains a wide array of pollutants, such as benzene and heavy metals, that can cause damage to the surrounding ecosystem and to the community’s health.

You can read the text of Bob and Ed’s comment letter here.

You can read Missouri DNR’s responses to comments here.

You can read the final permit issued by the Missouri DNR here, including additional maps of the site.

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