Kevin Killeen

BRIDGETON, MO–(KMOX)–The West Lake Landfill nuclear should be dug up and hauled away — so says a nuclear waste expert in town tonight to meet with Bridgeton residents.

Robert Alvarez, who served in the Department of Energy in the Clinton Administration, says the Thorium 230 buried at West Lake is 60-thousand times more radioactive than uranium, making West Lake one of the most dangerous nuclear dump sites in the country.

“This material is well know to be radio toxic,” Alvarez said, “It is well known to be able to escape and move in the environment . And it stays around for a very, very long time. Once it gets in the human body it stays there practically forever.”

The EPA has claimed its studies show the West Lake Landfill site is contained, and no radiation is getting beyond the dump site into the community.

But Alvarez contends the EPA is unable to take an aggressive stand on removing the nuclear waste, because it lacks the regulatory authority to take action without drawing a lawsuit from the responsible parties.

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

Smoke and steam rise from the dig site at the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill, May 23, 2013

To move things along, Alvarez says the site should be transferred to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps, he says, could order the removal without getting entangled in a lawsuit that could “drag on for years.”

Transferring the jurisdiction of the site would take pressure from the Missouri Congressional delegation, Alvarez said.

The nuclear waste at the site originated from the Manhattan Project. After various pit stops along the way since World War II, truckloads of the radioactive waste, mixed with topsoil, were dumped at the West Lake Landfill in the 1970s.

Calls to remove the waste have intensified in recent years as an underground fire at the nearby Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill has moved to within several hundred feet of the West Lake Landfill.

To prevent the fire from reaching the nuclear waste, plans are underway to dig a firebreak trench at the site as soon as soil tests for radiation at the trench site are complete.

Alvarez says the possibility of a fire — this one or a future fire — ever reaching the nuclear waste underscores the need to seek complete removal of the waste.

“There have been fires at nuclear waste disposal sites that have spread contamination over a large area with particles that are respirable,” Alvarez said, “In other words, you could breathe it in.”

Copyright KMOX


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