Breaking News: EPA Acting Director Andrew Wheeler Orders Cleanup of St. Louis Radioactive Waste
At 9:15am on Thursday, September 27th 2018, US EPA Acting Director Andrew Wheeler announced via livestream that EPA has ordered an aggressive, extended cleanup of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, MO. The announcement was met with positive reception from communities and activists in and around the St. Louis area who have spent decades fighting for a more thorough cleanup of the landfill which has remained on EPA’s list of Superfund Sites since the 1990s.
“This action reflects President Trump’s commitment to return EPA to its core responsibility — clean air, clean water and clean land,” Wheeler said in his announcement. “We believe this decision strikes the right balance, while emphasizing the health and safety of the community.”
Wheeler’s announcement earlier this morning is the latest decision that shows him following the legacy of EPA’s Superfund Task Force set before him by his predecessor, Scott Pruitt. Pruitt resigned earlier in July of 2018 following numerous federal ethics investigations. During his tenure as EPA Director, Pruitt established the Superfund Task Force to shift EPA’s focus to the expediting of environmental remediation projects throughout the United States. Adhering to the motions set in place by Pruitt, Wheeler’s announcement of the West Lake Landfill cleanup included a 5-year plan estimated at a cost of $205 million to the PRPs liable for the cleanup.
“Activists Dawn Chapman, left, and Karen Nickel wear protective masks at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo., north of St. Louis. The site, part of which is listed as among the nation’s most toxic messes, includes radioactive waste illegally dumped in the 1970s.”
The landfill contains “thousands of tons” of radioactive material, largely from the WWII-era Manhattan Project, which was dumped into the landfill in the 1970s. In 2008, then-President George W. Bush called for the waste at the site to be covered and monitored. Ten years later, Wheeler’s announcement of a 5-year, $205 million cleanup plan for the waste calls for roughly 70% of the radioactive waste to be removed from parts of the site and buried at depths where it is unexpected “to pose health risks” to the surrounding communities. Monitoring procedures for surrounding groundwater will also be enacted.
The plan signed off by EPA this morning in the Superfund site’s Record of Decision (ROD) is similar to a plan proposed for the site earlier this year, albeit roughly $30 million less expensive.