ST. LOUIS (CN) - A landfill operator will pay $6.8 million to compensate neighbors for noxious fumes emitted from an underground fire.
Bridgeton Landfill, a subsidiary of Republic Services, settled the 2013 class action in Federal Court. The plaintiffs' attorneys will get one-fourth of the award, leaving an average award of $12,750 per household.
An underground fire at the defunct Bridgeton Landfill was reported 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.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued Republic Services in 2013 for environmental violations.
An odor log maintained by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources shows about 400 complaints since the fire started, with the strongest odors occurring between April 2013 and July 2013.
Plaintiffs' attorney Ted Gianaris said he believes the settlement is fair and helps the residents.
"It's what I call 'fair money fast,'" Gianaris told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "No one is hitting the lottery with this settlement, but they're going to have options now when they collect. They can put a down payment on a house somewhere else or pay off debts."
Those who accept the settlement are prevented from filing any further nuisance claims for property damage due to the landfill's odor, but it does not prevent lawsuits for health issues or any potential nuclear event caused by the fire, Gianaris told the Post-Dispatch.
A hearing for final approval of the settlement is scheduled for Aug. 1.
"We are the first to acknowledge that the odors have been a source of considerable public concern and frustration," Russ Knocke, a Republic Services spokesman, said in a statement. "We share that frustration and hope that the resolution of this suit will bring peace of mind to our community. We also sincerely appreciate the community's patience as we continue to do everything within our power to rectify a complex and unfortunate situation that we did not create."
Gianaris told the Post-Dispatch that lawyers were unable to negotiate a buyout of residents. 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, so buyouts are not an option with the project.
Bridgeton, pop. 11,630, is a St. Louis suburb. Bridgeton, which neighbors Lambert International Airport in northwest St. Louis County, had a median household income of $44,694 in 2011, according to city-data.com.