BRIDGETON, Missouri — Regulators in Missouri are ordering more safeguards at the Bridgeton Landfill, where smoldering waste sits near discarded nuclear material.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources said temperatures have gradually increased over several months near a line of equipment meant to control the fire's spread, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1NrkhYw ) reported. It added that it observed three "outbreaks" of contaminated landfill liquid in June in the north end of the area, known as the north quarry.
An underground smoldering fire has burned for more than four years in the southern portion of the closed landfill. The state and the landfill's owner, municipal waste services giant Republic Services, have been able to keep the fire thus far from spreading to the north quarry, which is connected to the radioactively contaminated West Lake Landfill.
Republic maintains the underground fire is under control, but the DNR's letter posted to its website Sunday raises concerns that it could spread.
The company has spent more than $100 million capping the landfill, building a leachate treatment plant and installing temperature monitors, cooling wells and gas extraction equipment to control the fire. It has said looking only at several wells rather than all of the data Republic submits on temperature, carbon monoxide, hydrogen and other gases can paint an inaccurate picture of landfill conditions.
"There are no changed conditions or problems in the north quarry," Republic Services spokesman Richard Callow said in an email. "The overwhelming evidence indicates that the reaction's movement is in the opposite direction."
He added that what the DNR is citing as "leachate outbreaks" are actually the result of heavy rainfalls in June and that they would be normal at any site.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Republic said in 2013 that they would build a barrier separating the two landfills, but that project stalled due to uncertainty about the extent of radioactive contamination from West Lake.
Because of "uncertainties" surrounding the barrier and because Republic's existing heat extraction measures have "yet to be proven," the department gave the company 30 days to develop an alternate plan to stop the fire's potential movement. It also ordered the company to be prepared to fight new fires, should any happen in the north quarry.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com