The Art of the Deal? New EPA Administrator shaves $30 million from clean-up costs for nuclear waste near underground landfill fire in suburban St. Louis.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced its final plan for the West Lake Landfill in suburban St. Louis. As we’ve previously reported, West Lake Landfill is the site of illegally dumped nuclear waste that is buried near a long-smoldering underground fire.

Approximately a decade ago, the EPA announced a cap-and-monitor proposal for the site. However, that plan was met with such resistance that it was withdrawn and a new proposal was announced earlier this year. That plan, with an estimated cost of $236 million, proposed excavating some radioactive waste down to 16 feet and would have taken 5 years.

The EPA’s final plan will be both cheaper and faster than the one selected by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in February 2018. Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler selected a three-year plan that includes some variance in the depth of excavation, ranging from eight to 20 feet. The plan reduces the amount of radioactive material that needs to be handled, Mr. Wheeler said. In addition, the plan will see the removal of about 70 percent of the landfill’s radioactive waste, which will be shipped to an out-of-state disposal site. The specific disposal site has not been determined. A cover will be placed over the rest of the landfill’s radioactive material.

The plan faces opposition from Republic Services, which owns West Lake Landfill. The company says partial excavation creates unnecessary risks and takes longer than its preferred remedy of capping and monitoring the site.

Company spokesman Richard Callow said the plan “creates unacceptable risk with no proportional benefit, will greatly increase the time needed to remediate the site, and is contrary to EPA’s own findings regarding the risks posed by the site.”

Options for cleanup at the West Lake Landfill site ranged from a $75 million plan that would excavate less material and leave radioactive waste on-site to a $685 million proposal to remove all radioactive contamination.

We’ll be watching to see if any litigation ensues by the involved parties.

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