EPA’s Proposed Remedy Calls for Partial Radioactive Removal

FEB. 1, 2018 – The EPA announced this morning that it is proposing partial removal of the radioactive wastes from the West Lake Landfill. 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. People throughout St. Louis need to rise up and flood the EPA with public comments for full removal and offsite disposal unless they want to continue living alongside this radioactive threat.

Executive Director, Heather Navarro met with EPA Senior Advisor, Albert “Kell” Kelly; EPA Region 7 Administrator, James Gulliford; Region 7 Superfund Director, Mary Peterson; DeAndre Singletary, Region 7 Enforcement Coordination Office Director; and Region 7 Office of Public Affairs, Ben Washburn to learn of the proposed remedy and ask questions.

Here’s what we know:

  • There will be a 45-day comment period beginning on Feb. 4.
  • EPA proposes to remove radioactive material to a depth of 16 feet, which it believes will encompass approximately 70% of the radioactive material. Radioactive material below that threshold would remain a threat to groundwater. It is not clear why 16′ was determined to be the cutoff. However, we do know that given the nature of this site and that it is prone to flooding and to future earthquakes, the radioactive material will not stay where it is, or where EPA believes it to be right now.
  • A cap composed of multiple layers, and made of clay and other similar materials, will be placed over the remaining waste.
  • Although the feasibility study recommended removing the waste to a federally licensed facility, EPA’s proposal will seek comments on whether to leave the waste on-site in a containment facility. The landfill is in a floodplain and in a seismic zone. The radioactive wastes would be subject to all of those threats as long as it remains there.
  • The cost of the removal is estimated at $236 million and will be paid for by the potentially responsible parties:  Republic Services, Exelon, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • They anticipate that completion will take 5 years once the project is started.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) is working to protect the health of families living near the smoldering and radioactive landfill. In conjunction with the community, MCE supports the EPA’s full removal option for the radioactive waste from the unlined landfill and offsite disposal because it is the safest long-term option for the St. Louis region.

The EPA’s proposed remedy can be found here and the supporting documents can be found here.