Alarm Over Benzene Leaking From Landfill

BRIDGETON, Mo. (CN) - The Missouri Attorney General asked a state court for more oversight over a landfill where benzene was detected last weekend.
     The Bridgeton landfill, a subsidiary of Republic Services, has drawn the ire of neighboring businesses and residents since an underground fire was detected there more than three years ago. The fire brought noxious odors to neighboring homes and businesses, with concerns about the fire's proximity to radioactive waste at the adjacent West Lake Landfill, also owned by Republic Services.
     Bridgeton is a suburb of St. Louis.
     The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the cleanup of the radioactive waste in the nearby Westlake landfill, has stated that the landfill does not pose a health risk.
     But on Saturday, a Missouri Department of Natural Resources on-site inspector detected elevated levels of benzene at the landfill's perimeter, substantially in excess of site-specific standards established by the Missouri Department of Health.
     "The release of benzene by Republic into the environment at the Bridgeton Landfill is unacceptable," Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement. "Despite the order Republic agreed to more than a year ago, the company still does not appear to have the situation under control. My office is asking the court to compel Republic to take additional steps to prevent any such future release of hazardous material into the air."
     Koster's office filed a motion in St. Louis County Court, demanding better management of the site by Republic and more reimbursement to Missouri for monitoring the site. Specifically, Koster's office asked for:
     Installation of additional control systems to prevent hazardous substances, such as benzene, from entering the air around the site;
     Additional comprehensive air sampling for hazardous substances, including benzene and other volatile organic compounds;
     Additional odor-control measures; and
     Enhanced monitoring of the slope and stability of the landfill itself.
     The motion also seeks an additional $315,000 for site monitoring expenses. Republic had agreed to reimburse the state for costs associated with oversight of the landfill, up to $900,000, but the state claims monitoring costs so far have exceeded $1.2 million.
     A hearing on the motion is scheduled for June 19.
     Koster filed a class action against the Bridgeton landfill in 2013 to compensate neighboring residents for the noxious fumes. A $6.8 million settlement for the class action was announced in April; a final approval hearing for the settlement is scheduled for Aug. 1.
     Koster also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to produce raw data for radiological testing along haul routes, pertaining to the adjacent Westlake landfill. Koster demands raw sampling data and results from previous radiological testing along the roads leading to the Westlake landfill to make sure potential threats do not extend beyond the site's boundaries.
     Koster seeks the raw data the EPA claims to have obtained before 2005, but both the EPA and the Army Corps say they are having trouble finding the data. Koster's request is a formal demand that the data be found immediately and produced.
     Bridgeton, pop. 11,630, neighbors Lambert International Airport in northwest St. Louis County.