Testing work to start on Bridgeton Landfill trench

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Initial testing is about to start on a trench to help prevent a smoldering underground fire at a suburban St. Louis landfill from reaching World War II-era nuclear waste buried 1,200 feet away.

Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 officials told the Associated Press on Tuesday that initial survey work for the fire break at the Bridgeton Landfill will begin next week. Construction will start early next year and could take several months.

“We need to know what’s there before we make an estimate on construction time, but we are committed to doing it ASAP,” said Ron Hammerschmidt, director of the EPA Region 7 Environmental Services Division.

The testing phase was originally scheduled to start Oct. 10 but was delayed by the federal government shutdown, EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said.

Bridgeton Landfill owner Republic Services Inc. is paying to build the dirt-filled trench aimed at keeping the smoldering away from the adjacent West Lake Landfill. The smoldering has been problematic in itself, causing an odor so strong that Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against Republic Services earlier this year.

St. Louis-based Mallinckrodt Chemical Co. processed uranium as part of the Manhattan Project. The waste was dumped at West Lake in 1973. The EPA designated it a Superfund site in 1990.

Republic Services has said that even without the trench, there was virtually no chance the underground fire, which started in 2010, would reach the nuclear waste. Company spokesman Richard Callow said the firebreak adds another level of certainty.

Callow said the design work will confirm that the barrier is outside the area containing nuclear material. He said the work will not create any additional odor.

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