Bridgeton Landfill Agreement: Will Officials Eliminate Horrible Odor, Protect Residents?

May 15, 2013 at 6:00 am

After months of controversy regarding the smelly Bridgeton landfill -- with heated debates about the cause of the awful stench and the potential health hazards -- the Missouri attorney general's office and the company behind the site have hammered out an agreement.

Republic Services, parent company of the landfill, and Attorney General Chris Koster, who sued, unveiled a legal agreement yesterday, which includes details on relocation opportunities, a timeline on efforts to reduce the stench and funding plans for ongoing monitoring of air quality.

Environmental activists, however, say the plans don't go far enough to protect local residents in the coming weeks -- in part, because some in the surrounding areas may have to deal with an increasingly putrid odor.

"The people that are impacted by this landfill need to be at the table," Ed Smith, safe-energy director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment tells Daily RFT.

Since January, residents in Bridgeton have been complaining about this waste-management site, saying the odor at times is so bad it hits them inside their homes or makes them want to vomit.

Attorney General Chris Koster. - via
Attorney General Chris Koster.

The smell can be traced to an underground chemical reaction at the landfill, which is producing heat. (Activists and the attorney general's office have commonly referred to this as a dangerous "fire," though landfill officials and other government agencies say there is no actual flame and refer to it as a "subsurface smoldering event.")

The problem is especially concerning to some because the Bridgeton landfill is near the West Lake landfill, which has noteworthy levels of radioactivity. The combination could be very dangerous, critics have warned.

As part of the new agreement, Republic Services will pay for temporary hotel relocations for residents within a one-mile radius of the landfill in the coming weeks. During this time, the company will be removing six reinforced concrete pipes, which should in the long-term decrease the odor.

In the short term, it could, however, make the smell worse.

Smith says his group's surveys show that residents within a roughly three-mile radius are impacted by the stench -- and deserve the opportunity to relocate, too.

"Based on the information that we have, we feel the one-mile radius is inadequate," he says.

Here are maps the coalition put together, based on information from residents facing the stench (via Facebook). The pinned locations are resident reports of the odor, with the first map showing the one-mile radius and second map showing the three-mile radius. The coalition calls it the "stink radius," but says it's not a scientific study:

click to enlarge Bridgeton Landfill Agreement: Will Officials Eliminate Horrible Odor, Protect Residents?
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
click to enlarge Bridgeton Landfill Agreement: Will Officials Eliminate Horrible Odor, Protect Residents?
Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Koster, who spoke at a St. Louis press conference yesterday, said that it was important to negotiate an agreement and avoid leaving it in hands of a judge. If the two parties had gone to court, they could have ended up with a much worse deal with no paid relocations at all.

In response to Daily RFT's questions about the one-mile boundary, a Bridgeton landfill spokesperson sends us a statement saying, "Our primary focus is to start and finish a project that will keep us [on] the path of long-term solution."

The company says the optional relocation is simply an extra precaution for those closest to the landfill. Both the landfill and the AG's office say that a potential odor increase could ultimately be very minimal.

"It is unlikely to be much worse than it has in the past when we were doing excavation. The lodging program, which is voluntary, is there just in case," the Bridgeton statement says, adding the company will also use "a misting system to deodorize the air."

Continue for more on the Bridgeton landfill agreement.