Bridgeton Landfill Fire Heats Up Race for County Executive
BRIDGETON, MO–(KMOX)–It’s a landfill fire near a radioactive dump that could worry thousands of voters in north county — and the man who wants to unseat Charlie Dooley is making it an issue in the race for County Executive.
County Councilman Steve Stenger, who announced this week he’s running against incumbent Charlie Dooley, surprised some by bringing up the landfill during his debut speech.
“The burning Bridgeton Landfill, along with the radioactive-laden West Lake Landfill, poses untold harm to our county,” said Stenger, “partially because the county administration has been a bystander instead of a leader.”
Stenger made his pitch to both residents in the area and firefighters.
“I will be a voice to the first responders who have shown dire concern and to furious residents who believe the county government should do more,” Stenger said.
Stenger’s remarks reached the ears of Pattonville Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy, whose department would be among the first responders to handle the landfill fire, if it were to spread from underground to the surface.
“We’re not going to support a candidate, but if he’s going to take that on as part of his platform, we’re encouraged,” LaVanchy said.
Stenger’s comments are also playing well with neighborhood activist Dawn Chapman.
“I’m thrilled to see that the threat, first of all, he moves it outside of Bridgeton,” Chapman said, “He makes it a regional issue and makes that very clear.”
Chapman has complained in the past that County Executive Dooley has never attended neighborhood meetings on the issue, and has failed to use his bully pulpit to push for the complete removal of radioactive waste from the West Lake Landfill.
Dooley spokesman Pat Washington responds that critics of the administration don’t know everything County Health Director Dr. Delores Gunn has done to work on the problem.
“They don’t know. They’re not aware how hard Dr. Gunn’s team has been working,” Washington said, “how much they’ve interfaced and collaborated with the state and federal authorities.”
If elected, Stenger says he would return to the practice of having county landfill inspectors make regular visits to the site and other landfills.
In recent weeks, the owners of the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill — Republic Services — announced plans to dig a firebreak trench to isolate the burning trash from the nearby West Lake landfill where nuclear waste was dumped from the Manhattan project. Preliminary soil tests ahead of the digging to check for radiation were postponed by the EPA, because of the partial government shut down in Washington D. C..
Both Stenger and Dooley are invited to attend a meeting about the landfill crisis with neighborhood residents tonight at the Operating Engineers Hall, 3449 Hollenberg Dr, in Hazelwood. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30.
Chapman says potentially the landfill issue is a concern to voters in Bridgeton, St. Ann, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Florissant and Hazelwood — all areas that have been hit by odor problems and where residents are educated on the radioactive issue.
“The one who takes the time to spend time at these community meetings and talk with these people and have the knowledge first hand, I think that’s how they’re going to get their vote,” Chapman said.