In a long-awaited decision, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it aims to pursue partial excavation as its strategy to remediate the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in suburban St. Louis — the home of waste linked to the Manhattan Project.
The announcement comes after years of anticipation from the community, where the site has stoked concern about public health risks. The EPA said the proposed remedy, called “Excavation Plus,” is expected to take five years to implement. The measure will remove the majority of radioactive contamination that poses a health risk, while installing an engineered cover system for long-term protection.
Many community members have pushed for a single, maximally protective option: full excavation and off-site removal of the landfill’s contaminants. Meanwhile, companies such as the landfill operator, Republic Services — one of the entities responsible for funding the site’s remediation — strongly opposed calls to excavate the landfill and supported a “capping” strategy as a preferred remedial action.
Although the site’s radioactive contamination has been at the landfill since the 1970s, it has languished on the Superfund National Priorities List since 1990. It is widely regarded as one of the most high-profile — and complex — Superfund sites in the country.
The excavation options ranged in cost from estimates of $75 million for the basic capping remedy, to $695 million for full excavation combined with off-site disposal. The selected remedy is projected to cost $236 million.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch