Radioactive Missouri Landfill Gets Thriftier, Quicker EPA Cleanup

By Sylvia Carignan

A Missouri landfill containing radioactive waste will be cleaned up cheaper and faster after the EPA’s acting head opted for a thriftier plan than one his predecessor favored.

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt originally chose a $236 million plan to excavate some of the radioactive waste and cap other waste at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo. Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed off on a $205 million plan Sept. 27.

Wheeler’s final, three-year plan includes some variance in the depth of excavation, ranging from eight to 20 feet. Pruitt’s $236 million plan proposed excavating some radioactive waste down to 16 feet and would have taken 5 years.

The plan reduces the amount of radioactive material that needs to be handled, Wheeler said at the agency’s headquarters Sept. 27.

Wheeler told Bloomberg Environment that no big differences exist between his and Pruitt’s Superfund decision-making processes.

“We’re both following the president’s initiatives here,” he said.

Bridgeton Landfill LLC, Rock Road Industries Inc., and Cotter Corp., as well as the Energy Department, all took part in the site’s investigation and were named potentially responsible parties in its cleanup. Waste at the site includes radium and thorium mixed with municipal solid waste. A smoldering underground fire could eventually affect the waste.

Two areas became contaminated with radiation in 1973 when soils mixed with uranium ore processing residues were used as daily cover in the landfilling operation, according to the EPA.

‘Arbitrary and Capricious’

Richard Callow, a spokesman for Bridgeton Landfill, expressed disappointment that the final plan focused on excavation.

“EPA’s decision today to excavate is arbitrary and capricious,” Callow told Bloomberg Environment in a statement. The selected remedy “creates unacceptable risk with no proportional benefit.”

Options for cleanup at the West Lake Landfill site ranged from a $75 million plan that would excavate less material and leave radioactive waste on-site to a $685 million proposal to remove all radioactive contamination.

The EPA had planned to finalize the cleanup decision by Sept. 30.

The agency added the West Lake Landfill to the National Priorities List in 1990. The list contains the most contaminated sites in the country.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at

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