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High Levels of Benzene Found at Bridgeton Landfill

Associated Press
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Smoke and steam rise from the dig site at the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill, May 23, 2013
(Photo: KMOX/Kevin Killeen)

Smoke and steam rise from the dig site at the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill, May 23, 2013
(Photo: KMOX/Kevin Killeen)

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BRIDGETON, Mo. (AP) - The recent detection of a cancer-causing chemical at the smoldering Bridgeton Landfill has prompted Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to seek a preliminary injunction ordering the landfill’s owner to boost its oversight while also paying the state more money to monitor the site.

The attorney general filed the injunction Monday in St. Louis County Circuit Court against landfill owner Republic Services. The request comes after a weekend air quality inspection by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources found elevated levels of benzene at the site’s perimeter near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

Koster said the company hasn’t adequately responded to previous court orders related to the smoldering landfill. An underground fire that started at the Bridgeton Landfill more than three years ago has stirred up noxious odors as well as concerns about radioactive waste at the adjacent West Lake Landfill. The odors could get worse because construction is expected to begin soon on a barrier between the two landfills to keep the fire from reaching the radioactive waste.

“Despite the order Republic agreed to more than a year ago, the company still does not appear to have the situation under control,” Koster said.

In a separate move, the Attorney General’s Office filed public records requests with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Environmental Protection Agency seeking raw sampling data and test results from previous radiological testing along roads leading to the West Lake Landfill. The EPA has resisted Koster’s call for additional radiological testing, citing a 2005 test that found no elevated radiation levels along the roads where radioactive waste was hauled in the 1970s.

Richard Callow, a Republic Services spokesman, said that the company’s tests along with subsequent DNR tests showed normal levels of benzene after a “single elevated reading (that) was unconfirmed.”

“We are puzzled by the basis for the attorney general’s actions,” he said. “That is not a very good foundation for an injunction.”

A tentative agreement reached in April to settle a class-action lawsuit calls for Republic Services to pay an average of nearly $13,000 per household to hundreds of residents near the Bridgeton Landfill. But the $6.8 million settlement could be in jeopardy as some residents have said they won’t accept the deal. A hearing to approve the settlement is scheduled in August. The case could go to trial if fewer than 95 percent of residents accept the settlement.

Koster’s injunction request also seeks a $315,000 reimbursement from Republic Services for the state’s landfill monitoring costs. The company had agreed to pay back $900,000, but the state’s costs have already exceeded that amount, according to Koster.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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