Landfill odor: Health problems, but no elevated cancer risk

Aug 11, 2022, 1:28 PM | Updated: 6:24 pm
FILE - A membrane covers hundreds of feet of garbage and various pipes that direct leachate to a tr...

FILE - A membrane covers hundreds of feet of garbage and various pipes that direct leachate to a treatment plant at the Bridgeton Landfill on Aug. 28, 2015, in Bridgeton, Mo. Missouri's health department on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, announced findings of a lengthy examination of the landfill in suburban St. Louis, determining that the odor emitting from the landfill has created no significant health risk for people who live near it. The landfill has been a source of concern not only because of the smell, but because of underground smoldering that is within several hundred yards of buried nuclear waste. (Huy Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

(Huy Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

Missouri’s health department on Thursday announced findings of a lengthy examination of the troubled Bridgeton Landfill in suburban St. Louis, determining that the foul odor emitting from the landfill created health problems but did not increase the risk of cancer.

The finding of the yearslong investigation by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services was validation for people who live near the landfill in northwestern St. Louis County, said Dawn Chapman, co-founder of the activist group Just Moms STL.

“We knew we were facing physical symptoms on a day-to-day basis from exposure to the odors,” Chapman said. “We knew it could exacerbate illnesses because that’s what we were seeing.”

The landfill has been a source of concern for well over a decade for multiple reasons. Uranium refined in St. Louis as part of the Manhattan Project, the World War II-era program that produced the first nuclear weapons, was illegally dumped at the adjacent West Lake Landfill in 1973.

Meanwhile, a smolder was discovered underground in 2010 at Bridgeton Landfill, just a few hundred yards away, creating worry about what could happen if the smoldering reaches the nuclear waste. The cause of the smolder remains unknown, but the resulting odor was so pungent that many nearby residents complained of illness and were often forced to stay inside.

Bridgeton Landfill has spent millions of dollars to mitigate the odor, which has decreased significantly in recent years.

The state health department, in its “final health consultation document,” determined that before the odor-reducing actions, breathing sulfur-based compounds “may have aggravated existing respiratory and cardiopulmonary conditions,” and caused headaches, nausea and fatigue. Children, the elderly and those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma faced the greatest risk.

“Estimated cancer risks from living and breathing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) near the landfill are similar to the risks from living in other urban environments in the United States,” the report stated.

Chapman recalled a day in the summer of 2013 when she took her kids to a nearby Target store.

“The odor was so strong it came inside the building,” she said. “As we were checking out everybody was gagging. People were puking in the parking lot and moms were trying to put their groceries away with their noses bleeding.”

The odor was so bad that then-Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit in 2013. The suit was settled in 2018 when the current and former landfill owners agreed to pay $16 million.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency declined comment on the Missouri report.

The EPA’s Superfund project to address the nuclear waste was announced in 2018, but has been delayed while the agency refines its cleanup plan, initially estimated to cost $205 million. The agency has not issued a new timeline.

The landfill’s owner will shoulder the cost along with other “responsible parties,” which include the U.S. Department of Energy and Exelon Corp. of Chicago, whose subsidiary once owned uranium processor Cotter Corp.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A baker stacks loaves of Egyptian traditional "baladi" flatbread outside a bakery, in the Old Cairo...
Associated Press

Poverty and inflation: Egypt’s economy hit by global turmoil

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Stores are selling winter clothes from last season in the middle of summer. Repair shops lack spare parts for appliances. There’s a waiting list to buy a new car. Egypt, a country of more than 103 million people, is running low on foreign currency needed to buy essentials like […]
1 day ago
This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Tropical...
Associated Press

Florida monitors a growing Tropical Storm Ian in Caribbean

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities and residents in Florida were keeping a cautious eye on Tropical Storm Ian as it rumbled through the Caribbean on Sunday, expected to continue gaining strength and become a major hurricane in the coming days on a forecast track toward the state. Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency […]
1 day ago
Brothers of Italy's Leader Giorgia Meloni attends the center-right coalition closing rally in Rome ...
Associated Press

Italians vote in election that could take far-right to power

ROME (AP) — Italians were voting on Sunday in an election that could move the country’s politics sharply toward the right during a critical time for Europe, with war in Ukraine fueling skyrocketing energy bills and testing the West’s resolve to stand united against Russian aggression. Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0500GMT). The counting of […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Today in History: September 25, Sandra Day O’Connor sworn in

Today in History Today is Sunday, Sept. 25, the 268th day of 2022. There are 97 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Sept. 25, 1957, nine Black students who’d been forced to withdraw from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, because of unruly white crowds were escorted to class by […]
1 day ago
Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi acknowledges the audience applause after addressing the 77th sess...
Associated Press

China on Taiwan: ‘External interference’ won’t be tolerated

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — China underscored its commitment Saturday to its claim on Taiwan, telling assembled world leaders that anyone who gets in the way of its determination to reunify with the self-governing island would be “crushed by the wheels of history.” The language was forceful but, for Chinese leadership, well within the realm of […]
1 day ago
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan announces a new federal office of envir...
Associated Press

Biden administration launches environmental justice office

WARRENTON, N.C. (AP) — President Joe Biden’s top environment official visited what is widely considered the birthplace of the environmental justice movement Saturday to unveil a national office that will distribute $3 billion in block grants to underserved communities burdened by pollution. Forty years after a predominantly Black community in Warren County, North Carolina, rallied […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Landfill odor: Health problems, but no elevated cancer risk