Bridgeton Landfill: Officials Say the Bad Smells Could Pose Future Public Health Risk

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Smelly, a health risk or both?
Missouri officials have released new data on a Bridgeton landfill that environmental groups say is a major concern -- not just because it smells really terrible. The new information from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources tells a very different story about potential health concerns on site -- depending on who you ask.

Republic Services, the parent company of the landfill, sent out a lengthy statement yesterday saying it was pleased with the new air findings; it does not directly reference some of the more alarming parts of the report that activists are highlighting.

For example: "If...conditions intensify further, these emissions could potentially pose a risk to public health," MDNR says.

Should residents be worried?

See also:
- Bridgeton Odor: Landfill Company "Very Sorry" About Bad Smells, Working on Solution
- Bridgeton Landfill: Really Awful Smell Not A Health Hazard, But Still Stinky
- Bridgeton Landfill: We All "Want the Same Thing: To Dramatically Reduce the Odor"

"It's definitely premature for Republic Services to assure the general public that everything is fine," Ed Smith, safe energy director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, tells Daily RFT. "While they can get away with saying everything is fine right now, they haven't tested for everything."

We first reported on the Bridgeton controversy back in January when news stations were flocking to the city to report on just how awful the stench was (it even burned the eyes of a KMOV staffer!)

Since then, environmental and labor groups have been criticizing Republic Services, most recently with expert testimony saying that the bad smells at the Bridgeton landfill, coupled with radioactivity at a neighboring landfill -- which Republic Services also operates -- could produce a disastrous "dirty bomb" combination.

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Republic has pushed back against accusations, slamming the expert testimony as speculative and false and criticizing activists for trying to use scare tactics.

Today's latest feud relates to additional air monitoring reports from MDNR, based on studies conducted from February 13 through March 15.

Here are excerpts of the report that Smith tells us are most concerning:

-In regards to hydrogen sulfide levels:

In the case of hydrogen sulfide, the screening data identified a potential public health concern that warranted further evaluation.... Although it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions from this screening data, [Department of Health and Senior Services] deems that additional monitoring or other actions are warranted.

Exposure to elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide can cause headache, irritation to eyes, nose or throat, and may cause difficulty breathing especially for persons with asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions. In fact, any intense odors can have public health effects on both quality of life and well-being, particularly for sensitive individuals. Symptoms generally associated with offensive odors typically disappear once the odors dissipate.

-And concerns about the so-called "subsurface smoldering event" (which Republic Services says is heat underground, but the coalition says is clearly a "landfill fire"):

The subsurface smoldering event reaction has caused increased odors to be generated from the decomposition of waste above the level expected through routine decomposition, rapid settlement - more than expected for waste decomposing at depth, heat in gas extraction wells and increased generation of various landfill gases including hydrogen....

These odors continue to cause a nuisance. If emissions from the subsurface smoldering event are not controlled or conditions intensify further, these emissions could potentially pose a risk to public health.

Continue for more from Ed Smith and response from Republic Services.


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4 comments
Christine O'Neill
Christine O'Neill

Terry, the landfill is operated by Republic Services, who sent sent the letter. That is the company to which Kate is referring.

Terry Cagle
Terry Cagle

worrying is like a rocking chair...gives you something to do but doesnt get you anywhere!! And also the trash companies do NOT own the landfills lol

Kate Tabers
Kate Tabers

Yes. Last night I saw this story on the news. Then today I got a second letter from them saying there is no health risk and it is under control. Not liking the lack if information from the trash company.

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