Operable Unit-2 Background
The entire West Lake Landfill is considered an EPA Superfund site and is separated into three Operable Units. The EPA delegated authority over Operable Unit-2 (OU-2) to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources because the facility continued to operate as a landfill following the dumping of radioactive material in 1973. OU-2 is the non-radioactive parts of the landfill where industrial and municipal solid waste were dumped until it closed in 2005.
The current owner, Republic Services, purchased Allied Waste and the West Lake Landfill as part of a corporate acquisition in 2008, the same year the EPA released its first Record of Decision to cap-and-leave the radioactive material forever. In 2010, Republic Services notified the DNR that it suspected a self-sustained smoldering landfill fire started in the south quarry of OU-2. It was not until 2012 the public, including the Pattonville Fire Protection District, found out a smoldering fire was present because horrendous odors were escaping from the landfill. Then Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit against Republic Services for violating a variety of Missouri’s environmental laws in March 2013. Around the same time MCE discovered the EPA’s 2008 decision did not consider the risks a fire would have on the environment or public health if it were to reach the radioactive material.
In June 2018, then Attorney General Josh Hawley reached a settlement with Republic Services. Part of the settlement includes restitution to the community in the form of a $12.5 million community benefit fund that is currently administered by the St. Louis Community Foundation, restitution the State of Missouri, and financial assurances to try and manage the ongoing smoldering fire.
- Missouri Department of Natural Resources: The DNR is the lead regulatory agency for the landfill, which includes ongoing monitoring of the smoldering landfill fire, as well as the issuance and regulation of air pollution and stormwater pollution permits.
- Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services: The Agency released a Health Consultation in coordination with the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. (Sept. 2018)
- Environmental Protection Agency: While DNR has lead jurisdiction of OU-2, the site at the end of the day is a Superfund and that comes with EPA oversight.
- St. Louis Community Foundation: Oversees the administration and awarding of $12.5 million from the community benefit fund, which is the result of the legal settlement between former AG Josh Hawley and landfill owner Republic Services.
- St. Louis County Department of Public Health: The Department conducted and released a respiratory survey for people living closest to the smoldering landfill. (June 2016)
- Just Moms STL: This is a group of concerned citizens focused on the health and wellness of the community closest to the West Lake Landfill.