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U.S. Senate approves bill to put Army Corps in charge of West Lake landfill

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. Credit Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public RadioAs reported by St. Louis Public Radio, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill, S. 2306, transferring oversight authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), for the West Lake Landfill Manhattan Project-era radioactive wastes illegally dumped there.

Concerned local residents and environmental groups, from Just Moms STL to Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE), have long called for the transfer to ACE, for the dangerous wastes to be remediated, rather than just capped and abandoned in place, as long proposed by EPA.

As documented by a 1989 St. Louis Post-Dispatch multi-part, front page investigative series by Caroline Bower, as well as a Dec. 12, 1990 article in The Riverfront Times, very active citizen watch-dogging has persisted for decades.

The 1990 Riverfront Times article quotes Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey of St. Louis, who has long been deeply concerned about the potential for catastrophic flooding at West Lake Landfill, as it is located in the Missouri River flood plain.

In 2015, Kay published a pamphlet, warning about the risks to the drinking water supply of metro St. Louis. It includes a map, showing that the radioactive wastes at West Lake Landfill are upstream of the drinking water intakes for North County and the City of St. Louis, on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

For the past several years, concern has deepened over an underground fire at an adjacent garbage dump, slowly burning its way towards West Lake Landfill's buried radioactive wastes. Just Moms STL, MCE, and others' tireless organizing have succeeded in garnering extensive local and national media coverage. Fox 2 Now interviewed Just Moms leader, Dawn Chapman of Bridgeton, regarding the successful passage of the U.S. Senate bill.

In a recent edition of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Beyond Nuclear board member Lucas Hixson co-authored a study confirming that radium and uranium had migrated off-site from West Lake Landfill, into neighboring communities.

The U.S. House now picks up the matter, with a companion bill introduced before the Energy and Commerce Committee.