The West Lake Landfill is a former landfill immediately northwest of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport that closed in the 1970s. Once a limestone quarry, the site began operating as a landfill at least by the 1950s. In 1973, a now-defunct trucking company deposited at the site a mixture of 39,000 tons of soil and 8,700 tons of leached barium sulfate, a low-level radioactive material.
This mixture was dispersed over compacted trash in two areas of the Landfill. In 1976, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted an investigation of these materials. In 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed the Landfill as a Superfund site, making it a priority for environmental remediation, or clean-up.
The EPA chose a final site clean-up plan in 2008, after 30 years of extensive testing, analysis and public discussion.
The EPA’s plan called for a sophisticated capping-and-monitoring process, which would encapsulate the affected area forever. It would:
In 2009, activists successfully persuaded the EPA to put its proposed plan to cap West Lake Landfill on hold in order to conduct additional testing. The EPA’s proposed cap would already be in place today, had activists not persuaded the EPA to reconsider its original decision.
The activists want to excavate West Lake Landfill. This would involve transporting radiological material buried in the Landfill through communities in central and western Missouri to locations in the Rocky Mountain west.
The CDC has said that West Lake Landfill is safe. And, various independent scientists say that excavating the radiological material could dramatically increase radiation exposure risks.
Excavation could take forty years, and it could cost taxpayers as much as 600 million dollars, up-front.
Furthermore, excavation would seriously threaten flight operations and public safety at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Airport authorities have repeatedly warned that excavation would attract birds, increasing the likelihood of birds striking airplanes during takeoff or landing.
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