For the last several months a fire has been burning its way through the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton. But this fire has not burned with the characteristic orange and black haze of a wildfire. Rather, it has been completely unnoticeable save for the pungent odor emanating from the debris it has burnt. The fire comes from an old and unused landfill located in Bridgeton, but the flames have remained underground, buried beneath several feet of trash.

But Bridgeton residents have a severe problem with that. Not only does the burning landfill release a horrendously bad odor, but the landfill was built with two separate dumping sites. One for regular trash disposal and another for radioactive waste resulting from the manufacture of Cold-War era weapons. This second, more concerning, site is located just a few hundred feet from where the old landfill burns.Landfill fires originate from older landfills that were built and operated before modern environmental regulations were enacted. Many of these landfills lack any form of ventilation to allow methane and other combustible gases to vent out of the site as the trash decays. When these gases build up they can ignite, causing underground fires that can burn for months, even years. And in most cases the best remedy is to simply let the fire burn until it runs out of fuel, i.e. trash.

The E.P.A. had previously planned to seal off the second site by covering it with rock, clay, dirt, and vegetation. But that was before the fire started in the adjacent landfill, prompting residents and public officials to demand the complete removal of all radioactive materials from the landfill. Currently, there is no revised plan from the E.P.A. over what to do about the landfill. But it remains to be seen just what exactly can be done about the fire that continues to belch noxious gases into the air.

The state of Missouri continues to monitor the ground water and air quality in the Bridgeton area. In the meantime, the state attorney general has filled a suit against the federal government to force the issue. Hopefully, the situation can be contained before anything irreversible occurs.

Source via: News Tribune