BRIDGETON, MO–(KMOX)–With the fire still smoldering deep underground at that Bridgeton landfill, an industry consultant is warning the long term cleanup costs could put the parent company at risk and leave taxpayers picking up the tab.
“It could wind up sinking the entire company,” said Peter Anderson, Executive Director for the Center for Competitive Waste Industry. Anderson is a paid consultant of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment which has long been critical of how the landfill operator, Republic Services Inc., has handled the underground fire.
Now, Anderson says mounting cleanup costs could take a bite out of Republic’s corporate earnings and scare off stockholders.
“Because the costs are approaching the point where they will exceed the ability to pay dividends, you would expect investors to run for the door,” Anderson said.
Landfill spokesman Richard Callow says Anderson’s statements are “sensational” and “not supported by facts.” Callow says Republic Services has already set aside 18 cents a share this spring to cover cleanup costs, and is negotiating with the Missouri Attorney General to set up “financial assurance funds” for any additional long term cleanup costs. The dollar amount of what’s being negotiated for set aside money has not been disclosed.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit this spring against Republic Services, seeking to force a more aggressive approach to putting out the fire before it threatens a nuclear waste site at the adjacent West Lake Landfill, also owned by Republic Services. Since then, Republic has worked to cut off oxygen to the fire and covered the burning landfill with a massive tarp.
Last week — when briefed about Anderson’s claims — Koster’s staff down played the possibility of Republic Services Inc. being “put out of business” by the clean up costs. But no information was available about the estimated total cost for the long term cleanup, nor about how much money Koster wants Republic Services to set aside.
Republic Services Inc. Statement:
“Bridgeton Landfill LL appreciates the opportunity to respond to KMOX s source, as his sensational statements are once again not supported by the facts and contribute nothing to the serious and ongoing review of the Bridgeton Landfill’s operations.
“Republic Services took an 18 cent earnings charge in the second quarter as part of its accrual for past, current and expected future expenses of Bridgeton Landfill. The earnings charge encompasses past and current remediation efforts, including the cap, new well installations, well abandonments, leachate disposal, new gas flares, etc., as well as future costs such as the installation of an onsite water treatment facility and expected long-term maintenance and expenses of the Landfill over the next 30 years.
“With that charge, which was disclosed to Republic s shareholders as part of its second quarter 2013 SEC filings, Republic believes that all expenses have been accounted for and accrued. For more information about this disclosure, please refer to the company s second quarter form 10-Q SEC filing.
“Bridgeton Landfill LLC has long held the requisite closure, post-closure and corrective action bonds for the Landfill. This is standard operating procedure for landfill closures/post-closures as well as being consistent with the requirements of the Missouri Solid Waste Management regulations. As at every landfill, the purpose of the financial assurance is to ensure that there are reserves available which the state can use in the event that the landfill operator cannot meet its obligation.
“Additionally, the Landfill, MDNR and the Attorney General already are, and for months have been, engaged in a required regulatory process to ensure proper financial assurance for Bridgeton Landfill s supplemental future costs.”