Where There’s Fire, There’s Not Always Smoke. EPA Finds No Radioactive Contamination at Homes Near Suburban St. Louis Landfill

The Environmental Protection Agency declared a landfill near St. Louis, Missouri containing Manhattan Project waste has not contaminated nearby homes with radioactive materials.

Approximately 40 years ago, waste materials from the Manhattan Project were buried in the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, a St. Louis suburb. The discovery of an underground fire at the nearby Bridgeton Landfill has led to the lawsuits alleging that radioactive materials could be polluting nearby residential neighborhoods.

In November 2016, Robbin and Mike Dailey filed suit in state court against the private entitles that own the West Lake Landfill. In their petition, the Daileys allege that they conducted private tests showing high levels of radioactive materials in their home. In response to the claims in the lawsuit, in December 2016, the EPA performed a series of tests in the area. According to EPA Acting Region 7 Administrator Edward Chu, the EPA collected and analyzed over 140 samples.”

The EPA coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in developing the sampling plan and reviewing the analytical results. The EPA screened the area for alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. The EPA also took exterior soil samples and interior surface wipe and dust samples. The EPA then sent the samples to a certified laboratory to determine the concentrations of various radionuclides, including radionuclides associated with Manhattan Project waste.

The results showed all normal ranges for each analyzed sample with no relation to any of the Manhattan Project waste materials found at West Lake Landfill. As a result, the EPA has determined that no remediation is necessary.

At this point, it’s unclear what effect these findings will have on the Daileys’ lawsuit, which has been removed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Certainly, the defendants will use EPA’s findings as evidence in support of their defense in what is surely to become a “battle of the experts”. At a minimum, the findings should serve as a significant barrier to additional lawsuits and serve as a reminder of the potential power of the EPA (and similar state environmental regulatory agencies) to affect litigation related to alleged contamination lawsuits.

 

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