Dump fires are bad enough — stinky, unsightly, and generally unpleasant. But when one dump fired threatens to set off steam explosions sending radioactive waste hurtling into the air within ten miles of one of America’s major cities, then you’ve got a real crisis.
Haven’t heard about it? Well, it’s unfolding right now in Bridgeton, Missouri, northwest of the heart of St Louis and within the larger metropolitan area, where a dump fire now raging underground for more than two years is threatening to expose radioactive waste, some of it going back to the Manhattan Project.
Until recently, the main concern with the underground inferno — sparked by spontaneous combustion — has been the nasty smells, and the millions spent by corporate owner Republic Services haven’t stifled the stench.
But it’s the nuclear waste at the adjacent landfill, also owned by Republic Services, that has some folks really worried.
Jim Salter reports for the Associated Press that despite earlier assurances that all was well at the nuclear waste dump, recent tests have revealed a buildup of steam in the divider between the two dumps:
Heat from any fire at the nuclear site could spark an explosion in methane pockets or buried gas cylinders, throwing radioactive particles into the air, said Bob Criss, professor of earth and planetary science at Washington University in St. Louis, who has studied environmental concerns at the landfill.
The fire could also create “subsurface voids” that might expose nuclear waste to wind and rain — especially problematic because the landfill sits in the Missouri River flood plain, Criss said.
Elevated levels of radiation have been detected in some groundwater sampling at [nearby] West Lake. But radiation in groundwater poses no health risk “unless a person is actually drinking the groundwater,” [EPA spokesperson Chris] Whitley said.
H/T to ENENews.
For more on the fire, here’s McGraw Millhaven of KTRS radio in a discussion about the fire with St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Blythe Bernhard, starting at 2:10. The show was aired before the latest revelations on the underground steam buildup between the sites:
Even before the latest troubling announcement, the dumps’ owner had announced they would pay to temporarily relocate folks who lived nearby and were repulsed by the stink.