After months of controversy regarding the smelly Bridgeton landfill -- with heated debates about the cause of the awful stench and the potential health hazards -- the Missouri attorney general's office and the company behind the site have hammered out an agreement.
Republic Services, parent company of the landfill, and Attorney General Chris Koster, who sued, unveiled a legal agreement yesterday, which includes details on relocation opportunities, a timeline on efforts to reduce the stench and funding plans for ongoing monitoring of air quality.
Environmental activists, however, say the plans don't go far enough to protect local residents in the coming weeks -- in part, because some in the surrounding areas may have to deal with an increasingly putrid odor.
"The people that are impacted by this landfill need to be at the table," Ed Smith, safe-energy director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment tells Daily RFT.
Since January, residents in Bridgeton have been complaining about this waste-management site, saying the odor at times is so bad it hits them inside their homes or makes them want to vomit.
The smell can be traced to an underground chemical reaction at the landfill, which is producing heat. (Activists and the attorney general's office have commonly referred to this as a dangerous "fire," though landfill officials and other government agencies say there is no actual flame and refer to it as a "subsurface smoldering event.")
The problem is especially concerning to some because the Bridgeton landfill is near the West Lake landfill, which has noteworthy levels of radioactivity. The combination could be very dangerous, critics have warned.
As part of the new agreement, Republic Services will pay for temporary hotel relocations for residents within a one-mile radius of the landfill in the coming weeks. During this time, the company will be removing six reinforced concrete pipes, which should in the long-term decrease the odor.
In the short term, it could, however, make the smell worse.
Smith says his group's surveys show that residents within a roughly three-mile radius are impacted by the stench -- and deserve the opportunity to relocate, too.
"Based on the information that we have, we feel the one-mile radius is inadequate," he says.
Here are maps the coalition put together, based on information from residents facing the stench (via Facebook). The pinned locations are resident reports of the odor, with the first map showing the one-mile radius and second map showing the three-mile radius. The coalition calls it the "stink radius," but says it's not a scientific study:
Koster, who spoke at a St. Louis press conference yesterday, said that it was important to negotiate an agreement and avoid leaving it in hands of a judge. If the two parties had gone to court, they could have ended up with a much worse deal with no paid relocations at all.
In response to Daily RFT's questions about the one-mile boundary, a Bridgeton landfill spokesperson sends us a statement saying, "Our primary focus is to start and finish a project that will keep us [on] the path of long-term solution."
The company says the optional relocation is simply an extra precaution for those closest to the landfill. Both the landfill and the AG's office say that a potential odor increase could ultimately be very minimal.
"It is unlikely to be much worse than it has in the past when we were doing excavation. The lodging program, which is voluntary, is there just in case," the Bridgeton statement says, adding the company will also use "a misting system to deodorize the air."
Continue for more on the Bridgeton landfill agreement.
The agreement between Republic and Koster says the landfill operators will reimburse state agencies for continuous monitoring and sampling of the air and ground at the site. It also outlines the remediation efforts and a schedule moving forward. Bridgeton says in its statement that it was already taking many of these steps anyway.
The next phase of work will start on Monday, May 20, and continue through mid-June.
Here's the full announcement from the AG's office.
Attorney General Koster reaches agreement regarding lodging program, remediation schedule, and cost recovery at Bridgeton Landfill.
St. Louis, Mo. - On Tuesday May 14 Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster outlined the terms of a first agreed order reached with the Bridgeton Landfill. Under the agreement landfill operators will provide temporary accommodations for residents most affected by the odor, and reimburse state agencies for continuous monitoring and sampling of the air and ground at the site.
Additionally this order compels Republic to complete remedial work on an established schedule. This includes removal of the top sections of the reinforced concrete pipes that have been identified as contributing to the odor and subsurface smoldering event. Removing the top sections of these pipes will facilitate the placement of a new landfill cap that captures and destroys odorous gasses and starves the subsurface of oxygen.
"Through this legally binding agreement Republic has committed to immediate corrective action at the Bridgeton Landfill. This includes controlling the offensive odor and implementing safeguards that protect the safety and quality of life for nearby residents and workers at the landfill," said Koster at a press conference in the Attorney General's St. Louis office.
On May 7 Republic began notifying residents of the lodging program, including extended hotel accommodations for the duration of excavation work on the six reinforced concrete pipes. Republic believes that an increase in the offensive odor may occur during this removal work. For those residents who wish to stay with friends or family, compensation is provided at a rate of $125 per week of displacement. Notification efforts by the company will continue in the days ahead and work is set to begin on May 20.
"The safety of nearby residents and workers at the Bridgeton Landfill, as well as the protection of natural resources at and around the site are of paramount concern to the state. This agreement provides the state the authority to ensure that Republic completes remedial work and manages the site in a way that addresses our concerns," said Koster. The Attorney General described this agreement as, "representing the first step in addressing the immediate and long-term issues raised by conditions at the site."
Containing and eliminating the subsurface smoldering at the site is important to prevent migration of smoldering beyond the south quarry, where it could threaten the West Lake Landfill site.
"This agreement puts in place a legally enforceable framework for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to direct Republic to take immediate steps to combat the spread of the fire. Such steps may include the drilling of additional interceptor wells, the installation of additional temperature probes, complete capping of the North Quarry, and ultimately - if necessary - the construction of a physical barrier between the fire and the radioactive material at the West Lake Landfill," explained Koster.
An agreed order of preliminary injunction between the parties will be entered today by the St. Louis County Circuit Court.
Koster filed a lawsuit March 27 that outlined a series of violations of Missouri environmental law by landfill operators. Since then, officials from the Attorney General's office and other state agencies have engaged in negotiations with Republic Services of Bridgeton and others to achieve an agreed path forward that addressed the state's concerns.
And the statements from Bridgeton:
Our primary focus is to start and finish a project that will keep us the path of long-term solution.
Republic itself has more than 350 employees working at the site and many who live in nearby coummunities. We don't know that the RCP abandonment project is going to increase the odor level. However, we wanted to make sure that our closest neighbors - in Spanish Village, Terrisan Mobile Homes, and the Condos - could participate in a lodging program should the odor level increase.
To reduce the impact of the odor, we are taking a number of steps, including minimizing the extent and duration of excavation and using a misting system to deodorize the air. It is unlikely to be much worse than it has in the past when we were doing excavation. The lodging program, which is voluntary, is there just in case.
Both the company and state officials will be monitoring the reaction. We urge residents to stay informed and in touch via bridgetonlandfill.com.