-- Data also indicates that underground fire has moved beyond the interceptor wells separating the North and South quarries --
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster released today new reports from expert witnesses in the case he is prosecuting against Republic Services, Inc. relating to the subsurface fire at the Bridgeton Landfill. Collectively, the reports paint a troubling picture of the environment surrounding the landfill site. Contamination in groundwater outside the landfill perimeter has been identified, including radiological contamination detected in trees surrounding the site. Further, data indicate that the fire has moved past the two rows of interceptor wells positioned at the neck of the landfill, closer to the North Quarry.
Koster’s office gathered the reports to better understand the facts relevant to the lawsuit Koster filed in 2013 against Republic Services for alleged violations of law associated with the still-burning fire. The Attorney General’s Office is publicly releasing the reports because they contain information important to the health and safety of the people who live and work near the landfill.
The reports may be viewed below. Their conclusions are briefly summarized as follows:
- Drs. Joel Burken and Shoaib Usman, Environmental Engineering Professor and Nuclear Engineering Associate Professors, respectively, at Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T), detected radiological and organic contamination in trees on the property of neighboring landowners. According to the report, these findings “indicate the off-site migration of RIM [radiologically impacted material], either in groundwater or aerial transport of particulate matter[,]” and similar off-site migration of organic pollutants, likely through movement of leachate-impacted groundwater.
- Peter Price, a scientist with the Missouri Geological Survey, and Dr. David Wronkiewicz, a Geology Associate Professor at Missouri S&T, discovered volatile organic compounds, including benzene, acetone, and 2-butanone, in high concentrations in the groundwater in wells outside the perimeter of the landfill. They are able to trace the contamination to the landfill by comparing its characteristics to leachate taken from the landfill.
- Drs. Tony Sperling, a landfill-fire expert and professional engineer, and Ali Abedini, a landfill-gas specialist, concluded that the data show the fire has moved beyond both lines of gas interceptor wells at the “neck” of the landfill, in the direction of the OU-1 radiological area. Drs. Sperling and Abedini also concluded that Republic Services “was negligent in aggressively over-extracting the gas system well outside industry best practices.” They note that oxygen intrusion caused by over-extraction is the leading cause of subsurface fires and smolders in municipal solid waste.
- Todd Thalhamer, a civil engineer from California with extensive experience investigating landfill fires, concluded that what he described as a “catastrophic event” at the landfill “was foreseeable and preventable.” He stated that business decisions by the landfill’s operators to overdraw gas-collection systems and inadequately maintain the soil cover on the site were factors causing the fire to occur.
- Dr. Timothy Stark, PhD and professional engineer, performed three separate personal inspections of the landfill site. He observed significant slope degradation and areas where the waste mass had settled, suggesting the underground waste had been consumed by a smoldering / combustion event.
- Don Wright, a consultant specializing in odor assessment, captured an odor profile from the air surrounding the landfill and was able to identify a dominant odor “emitted by and carried a considerable distance downwind from the Bridgeton Landfill source.”
- Kenny Hemmen, a registered geologist at Geotechnology, Inc., conducted a feasibility study to analyze remediation options related to potential groundwater contamination. He examined five alternative approaches with the objective of protecting human health and the environment.
In addition to publicly releasing the reports, the Attorney General’s Office forwarded copies to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and the St. Louis County Public Health Department. Koster encouraged those agencies to carefully review the information in the reports and take further remedial action as appropriate to ensure that the people around the landfill are protected.
“These reports underscore what has been clear from the beginning—Republic Services does not have this site under control,” Koster said. “Not only does the landfill emit a foul odor, it appears that it has poisoned its neighbors’ groundwater and vegetation. The people of Missouri can’t afford to wait any longer—Republic needs to get this site cleaned up.”
Koster’s suit against Republic Services is set for trial in March 2016. He has alleged that Republic’s management of the landfill was negligent and that the company has violated the State’s environmental laws. The suit seeks penalties, actual damages, and punitive damages as a consequence of Republic’s allegedly unlawful conduct.