CLAYTON, Mo. (KMOX) – If the underground fire at the Bridgeton landfill reaches nuclear waste in the nearby West Lake landfill, St. Louis County emergency planners say they’re ready.
County Executive Steve Stenger has released to KMOX a plan drafted in October of 2014, which aims “to save lives in the event of a catastrophic event at the West Lake landfill.”
The 11-page document warns “there is a potential for radioactive fallout to be released in the smoke plume and spread throughout the region.”
Cities in the potential path of radioactive fallout are listed: Bridgeton, Hazelwood, Maryland Heights, the village of Champ and the city of St. Charles.
“This event will most likely occur with little or no warning,” the study claims.
It also warns that local resources may not be adequate, and there will be a need for assistance from federal sources, the private sector and volunteer organizations.
In releasing the document, Stenger says he wants the public to know that the county is preparing for an event that everyone hopes will never take place.
“None of this is meant to be alarmist, but you have to be prepared,” Stenger says.
The disaster plan would go into effect under the direction of the first responding fire department to the landfill in the event of a surface fire.
Pattonville Assistant Fire Chief Matt LaVanchy says if someone were to call 911 and report smoke coming from the landfill, his team would go in first.
LaVanchy says equipment would be in place “within a half hour” to test the smoke for possible radiation.
If radiation were detected, some nearby residents would be urged to evacuate, and others would be urged to take shelter in their homes.
The plan envisions designated evacuation routes with police and barricades controlling the flow of traffic. Transportation at designated pick-up areas using church or school buses would be provided for evacuees who don’t have their own transportation.
The Red Cross and Salvation Army would be called upon to assist with evacuees.
The plan does not identify any specific facilities where evacuees would be sheltered. Family pets would be admitted to shelter facilities for evacuees.
In accordance with state law, no one would be forced to leave their residence after being advised to evacuate, the plan says.
But the plan says re-entry into evacuated areas would only begin after the Unified Command Post has declared the area safe. Residents who were told to take shelter would await an “all clear” declaration before going outside.
Notifying the Public of an Emergency
Mass media, text messages and public address systems on the county’s tornado warning sirens would be used to alert the public if a landfill emergency exists.
“We would want the public notified as soon as practically possible,” Stenger says, “and if there was evidence that we were in imminent danger, we would notify the public immediately.”
To prepare your cellphone to receive a text message of an actual landfill emergency, the county has provided a link.
Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Bridgeton Landfill, sent the following statement:
“County officials and emergency managers have an obligation to plan for various scenarios, even very remote ones. Bridgeton Landfill, whose management team works closely with the region’s first responder community, is safe and intensively monitored.”
Stenger released the disaster plan to KMOX after we reported last week about some landfill area residents receiving online brochures at their request about how to respond to a radiological emergency.
Stenger wanted to make it clear that the county has a larger plan in place that is being fine-tuned to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
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