BRIDGETON, Mo. (KMOX) – A prominent fire commander is calling for the removal of nuclear waste from the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton as his department monitors an underground landfill fire nearby.

“We need to quit talking about it and take action because it is something that is very serious,” Pattonville Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy says.

According to LaVanchy, the entire St. Louis metropolitan region would be threatened with radioactive smoke if the fire at the Bridgeton Landfill were ever to reach the nuclear site at West Lake.

“This is something that has cost me a lost of sleep, not just because it’s in my backyard but there’s a lot of innocent people in this area,” he added. “If that fire ever gets to that radioactive material, which I’m not saying is going to happen, but there’s a potential there for something very tragic to happen in this area.”

If that occurred, according to LaVanchy, radioactive isotopes would leach onto smoke particles, carrying the airborne nuclear waste in whichever way the wind blew.

LaVanchy says in the short term, a trench needs to be dug to create a fire break. In the long term, he says the nuclear waste needs to be removed before another fire at the Bridgeton Landfill starts.

Later this week, the owners of the landfill are expected to present a revised plan to stop the fire from spreading toward the nuclear waste.

“It shouldn’t be in this community at all to begin with, let alone having a fire 1,000 feet away from it,” LaVanchy says. “There is just that much more sense of urgency with this.”

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