EPA Stalling on Underground Fire Near Nuclear Waste Dump

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Near the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton, there is one of two massive landfills filled with radioactive waste. Below it, according to The Washington Post -- some 60 to 200 feet down -- is rapidly decomposing waste that is smoldering in a "sub-surface burning event."

"The underground burn is only a few thousand feet from a Superfund site filled with waste from the World War II-era Manhattan Project," the report goes on to say.

Managing the Superfund site is none other than the Environmental Protection Agency, which has not been doing a great job of protecting much of anything lately. And when it comes to this site, the report states, the EPA "has done little to stop the burn from reaching the radioactive waste."

Concerned neighbors and state officials have taken notice and are wondering what is going on. One mother featured in the Post's story is worried that living only a mile away from the site has caused her six-year-old son's hair to fall out. He suffers from the autoimmune disease alopecia areata, which causes extreme hair loss.

Both Republicans and Democrats have sponsored bills in the Missouri House to remove the EPA's jurisdiction from the 200-acre site and hand it over to the Army Corps of Engineers to clean and remove the 48,000 tons of nuclear waste. So far, nothing has changed.

Missouri's State Attorney General Chris Koster complained to lawmakers recently, saying, "A burning radioactive waste dump requires the government to act with urgency, but EPA seems unable to move forward with a meaningful solution."

But while residents endure the smells and wonder if exposure to the highly toxic hazardous waste is making them sick, the EPA is dragging its feet. It is stated that they have ordered the landfill's owner, Republic Services, to build a barrier wall to "isolate the burn" from reaching the waste, but it is slated to take a year and cost the company $30 million unless it's transferred to the Army corps.

The EPA is also citing air-quality measurements being within acceptable range and are assuring residents that scientists have determined that the burn isn't that close to the radioactive material. Though further litigation is pending, the EPA and Republic Services maintain that "the landfill is in a managed state."

Surely these are some of the same assurances the EPA cited before lead poisoned the water in Flint, Michigan or the "managed" Superfund mine site in Colorado that burst forth and turned the surrounding water systems a toxic orange. Those are real confidence builders, there.