Bill Gates, Bridgeton Landfill, Chernobyl, emergency management, fire control, Fukushima, hazards of burying nuclear waste, landfill fire, Manhattan project, Missouri, nuclear accident, nuclear waste, radioactive fallout, radioactive waste, radioactive waste burial, radiological accident, Republic Services, St. Louis, US EPA, Westlake Landfill
Is the Missouri Landfill Fire a Chernobyl or Fukushima in the Making? Initially this seems like an odd question, and even hyperbole. However, the tonnage of radiological waste at the Bridgeton-Westlake landfill exceeds that of Fukushima over 20 fold, and Chernobyl by 163 times. Nonetheless, how diluted the Bridgeton nuclear waste is appears unknown. The fire may reach the area where this radiological waste was disposed, in as little as 3 to 6 months, if action is not taken to stop it. Even if it is stopped, it should serve as a warning of the risks of sending nuclear waste, and radioactive rubble from decommissioned reactors to regular landfills, as is becoming the fashion. The burial of nuclear waste, even in special facilities, constitutes a hazard, as well.
Both the steam from the Missouri landfill fire and flaring of the landfill (methane) gas can release the radionuclides into the air. The inhalation dose coefficients for radioisotopes believed to predominate, indicate that they are even more deadly upon inhalation than the cesium at Fukushima. However, many other radionuclides have been, and are still being emitted, from Fukushima. The radioactive waste in Missouri is probably mixed in with other things. But, is it diluted by 1/20th? We will probably never know, anymore than we will ever know the truth about what is coming out of Fukushima. It also appears that the radionuclides have been migrating out from this landfill for some time. A study which was part of the Missouri lawsuit against Republic Services, over the landfill, found radionuclides in nearby trees. Who knows how much has been gradually released already through gas flaring and leaching?
From the Missouri Attorney General Letter to the US EPA, Sept, 3, 2015: “The reports from the Missouri Geological Survey and Missouri S&T scientists involving off-site groundwater and tree-core samples, for example, show evidence of radiological and organic contamination outside the boundaries of the landfill.” http://www3.epa.gov/region07/cleanup/west_lake_landfill/pdf/west-lake-letter-hague-expert-reports.pdf
St. Louis Emergency Management takes the problem seriously and warned, in a document written one year ago, of the “potential for radioactive fallout to be released in the smoke plume and spread throughout the region.” Region sounds large.
The State of Missouri commissioned a report on the Bridgeton-Westlake Landfill fire, submitted as part of the lawsuit filed on October 2nd against Republic Services. It was prepared by Landfill Fire Control-Tony Sperling. The report states that “40,000 tonnes of radiological waste were received at Westlake Landfill and placed in the OU1 area.” (p. 43, State of MO v. Republic Services, Inc. et al Sperling/Abedini – 0000105) How does this compare to Fukushima and Chernobyl: Fukushima Daiichi had 1852 tons of nuclear fuel: “4 reactors – 1852 tons (274 tons in three reactors + 409 tons in reactor storage pools and 1169 tons in central pool)” Chernobyl had: “1 reactor – 245 tons” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Fukushima_and_Chernobyl_nuclear_accidents Once again, how mixed the nuclear waste is, or is not, with non-radioactive things, remains unknown, and will certainly remain unknown. But, the situation appears serious.
In the 1980s to early 1990s US nuclear waste from DOE sites was illegally incinerated throughout America at facilities which were not licensed for nuclear waste. While there were Congressional Hearings, it was too late. After it has flown over your head and you have inhaled it, it’s too late to be notified, unless it fell on your property too. See: “Oversight Hearing on Release of Radioactively Contaminated Waste from Department of Energy Complexes to Civilian Incinerators“, Thursday, February 20, 1992. House of Representatives, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs: “In the spring of 1991, residents of Baton Rouge, LA, were shocked to read in their local newspaper that radioactive waste from the Department of Energy nuclear weapons complex at Oak Ridge, TN, had been burned at a local incinerator. This was not an isolated incident. Between 1981 and 1991, the Department of Energy site sent thousands of tons of hazardous waste to treatment, storage, and disposal facilities not just in Louisiana but across the country. It now appears that radioactive material was present in that waste… One hundred and fifty TSD sites nationwide received waste from a total of 36 different DOE complexes. These TSDs include incinerators and landfills, as well as recycling and recovery facilities. Many of the DOE sites generating the waste were involved in the nuclear weapons’ program and use highly dangerous materials, including plutonium.” [And those who didn’t read the newspaper still may not know.]
The Landfill Fire Control Study on the Bridgeton Missouri landfill fire further notes: “The SSSER is generating a lot of heat that converts leachate to steam. LFCI is not knowledgeable regarding the release of radioactive waste, other than the knowledge distributed by media during the recent Fukushima disaster. During that event, super-heated steam carrying radionuclides was one of the primary pathways for distribution of radiation, as was the case at Chernobyl. Given the potential risk, LFCI is of the opinion that a physical barrier to isolate OU-1 from the threat of landfill fire should be constructed immediately.” (p. 105, State of MO v. Republic Services, Inc. et al Sperling/Abedini – 0000105. Emphasis added)
“OU-2 has had a “sub-surface smoldering event” occurring for several years. If the “sub-surface smoldering event” reaches the radiological area, there is a potential for radioactive fallout to be released in the smoke plume and spread throughout the region… This event will most likely occur with little or no warning… Depending upon the severity and magnitude of the situation, local resources may not be adequate to deal with every occurrence. It may be necessary to request assistance through volunteer organizations, the private sector, mutual aid agreements, or state and federal sources.” “St Louis County St. Louis County, Missouri West Lake Landfill Shelter in Place/ Evacuation Plan“, October 2014
http://www.stlradwastelegacy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/SIP-for-RAD.pdf (Emphasis added)
“The West Lake facility was contaminated with radioactive waste from uranium processing by a St. Louis company known as Mallinckrodt Chemical. The waste was illegally dumped in 1973 and includes material that dates back to the Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb in the 1940s.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/08/world/st-louis-girds-catastrophic-event-underground-fire-burning-since-10-get-near-cold-war-nuke-waste-cache/
“In 1942, Mallinckrodt contracted with the U.S. War Department to produce uranium for use in the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago’s graphite reactor. Uranium processing and waste management activities supported early federal government programs during 1942-1958 to develop atomic weapons under MED-AEC. Mallinckrodt was initially the only supplier of uranium compounds for the Manhattan project, and provided high purity uranium products used during World War II. Mallinckrodt processed euxenite mineral ore from 1956-1960, uranyl and thorium salt from 1956 to 1977, and researched reactor fuel rod production from 1956 to 1961.” http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/decommissioning/complex/mallinckrodt-chemical-inc-facility.html
A study by the Center for Competitive Waste Industry, March 21, 2014, submitted to the Missouri Attorney General, and copied to the EPA and others, suggests that much of the radiation may have already migrated out of the original zone, and thus may be venting into the air already, via flaring. (See p. 9) Some radionuclides are known to have migrated out in leachate and/or by flaring of the gas produced by the landfill gas.
Again from the document commissioned by the State of Missouri:
“Given that in the worst case scenario, the SSSER could arrive at OU-1 in as little as three months, LFCI does not believe that delaying the construction of an effective thermal and leachate barrier between OU-1 and the North Quarry is in the best interest of Bridgeton Landfill LLC, Republic Services and its shareholders as it potentially exposes those parties to immense environmental and financial liabilities should the worst case scenario develop.” “…it would be prudent to establish a physical barrier between the North Quarry and OU1 that is an effective thermal barrier as well as a barrier to groundwater flow, particularly given such a project seems relatively straightforward given the shallow waste thickness in the area.” p. 113 State of MO v. Republic Services, Inc. et al Sperling/Abedini – 0000113
“SSSER Reaching Radiological Waste: We understand that there is radiological waste present in OU-1, immediately north of the North Quarry. Furthermore, we understand that there is currently no physical separation between the waste in OU-1 and the waste in the North Quarry. Furthermore, we understand that there is a physical step or cliff present about mid-way into the quarry. The north quarry is much shallower on the north side of that step.
LFCI has determined that if the SSSER were to expand in the North Quarry at the same rate as was observed in the South Quarry, the reaction could reach OU-1 in as little as three to six months. LFCI believes that currently the advance of the SSSER northward is being retarded by the vacuum that is being applied by the two rows of GIW wells. However, once the reaction front migrates beyond the zone of influence of those wells it is not unreasonable to conclude that it may once again accelerate.
The SSSER is generating a lot of heat that converts leachate to steam. LFCI is not knowledgeable regarding the release of radioactive waste, other than the knowledge distributed by media during the recent Fukushima disaster. During that event, super-heated steam carrying radionuclides was one of the primary pathways for distribution of radiation, as was the case at Chernobyl. Given the potential risk, LFCI is of the opinion that a physical barrier to isolate OU-1 from the threat of landfill fire should be constructed immediately.” (p. 105)
“Gas Interceptor Wells: LFCI generally supports the need to depressurize the reaction to maintain control; however, we question the aggressive pumping of LFG in non-reacted areas ahead of the reaction front. In our opinion, extracting LFG from ahead of the reaction induces gas flow and heat transfer in the wrong direction, pulling the reaction northward rather than pulling it back. The GIW’s may be more effective in constraining further spread now that the reaction has crossed to GEW 109“. (p. 107)
“Of course, raising water levels in the North Quarry must be carefully evaluated in the context of the inward hydraulic gradient needed to maintain a hydraulic trap, and in the context of the possible presence of radionuclides from OU-1 in the leachate. LFCI does not have sufficient information to comment on either of these concerns at present.” (p. 107)
The entire study is available here: http://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2015/lfci_report_bridgetonlf.pdf?sfvrsn=2. State of MO v. Republic Services, Inc. et al Sperling/Abedini – 0000105
“The burning is occurring through two processes. Smoldering where oxygen is available, and through self sustaining subsurface exothermic reaction (SSSER) at depth.” p. 109 http://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2015/lfci_report_bridgetonlf.pdf?sfvrsn=2. State of MO v. Republic Services, Inc. et al Sperling/Abedini – 0000105
Plaintiff: State of Missouri; Defendant: Republic Services, Inc., Allied Services, LLC and Bridgeton Landfill, LLC, Case Number: 4:2015cv01506, Filed: October 1, 2015, Court: Missouri Eastern District Court http://www.moed.uscourts.gov
According to a study by the Center for a Competitive Waste Industry, sent to the Missouri AG on March 21, 2014: “The West Lake-Bridgeton Landfill Fire: a Perfect Storm” (March, 2014, 87pp.):
“BRIDGETON’S FATALLY FLAWED SITING AND DESIGN, COMBINED WITH THE FACT THAT A SUBSURFACE FIRE CANNOT BE EXTINGUISHED AND IS INTERACTING NOW WITH RADIOTOXINS, MAKES THE DETERIORATING SITUATION LARGELY UNMANAGABLE
Because of an historic series of major errors by Republic and its predecessors, the threat to the well-being and economy of north St. Louis is so great that regulators need to act to reduce those risks. The unprecedented challenge to the state officials, in turn, is that the several owners’ deplorable siting, design and operating decisions over more than 29 years leave little room to maneuver today. For one thing, attempts to patch leaks and cracks in an unlined landfill perched in the water table of the Missouri River flood plain that is on fire is a prescription for failure, as can be seen in the continuing weekly reports of well and cover failures and odor alerts on MDNR’s webpage. To that must now be added that, in perhaps one of the cruelest ironies, not only are the available tools for regulators and managers only marginally adequate to reduce odors. Most important is the fact that as to radionuclides, which is the most critical risk factor, at best, remedial efforts will fail to confront the release of intractable radioactivity, and, more often, actually make those matters worse.
In consequence, this fatally flawed landfill is inherently a sieve that cannot be managed to prevent the release of radiotoxins into the atmosphere and groundwater from the ongoing interaction of the fire spreading from the south and the radium and thorium isotopes migrating out of the north. As is discussed in the section that follows this, the only constructive option left to reduce the threat of a multiplying the release of alpha emissions is to excavate a fire break around the remaining radioactive wastes that have not yet migrated out of Area 1 – if the task can be completed in time. Unfortunately, there is probably less than a 10% probability that this can be done in time.
But, for the two chief remedies in the North Quarry, regulators are caught between Scylla and Charybdus. They will be blamed for the failure to take action if they do not, and for the unintended negative consequences if they do. These involve installation of a–
– Geomembrane cover and more heat resistant gas collection wells 34
– Pretreatment facilities for leachate captured by perimeter sump pumps 35
– Isolation barrier around the southern perimeter of Area 1 ” (p. 44)
“Gas flares do not neutralize radiotoxins
The intent of installing a geomembrane cover and adding more gas collection wells has been to minimize releases of odors, toxic substances and radioactivity into the atmosphere. Things will not, unfortunately, work as planned with regard to the radioactivity.
Ironically, that same gas collection system, meant to work integrally with the geomembrane in order to prevent the release of fugitive landfill gas or the blowout of the cover also does something that was not intended. That is to provide another pathway for the migrating radionuclides to be released into the atmosphere, even if we assume the system were capable of operating as designed. As a result, this is another example where the severity of the Bridgeton’s siting and design flaws makes it impossible to safely manage the challenges the fire has created.
Briefly by way of background, in the anaerobic environment of a landfill, decomposition of the discarded food scraps and grass clippings yields gas as one of the byproducts, of which about half is methane. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, also helps strip out the toxics in their vapor state from the wastes, and transports them as a hazardous constituent of the gas. Heat from a subsurface landfill fire further increases the transition of toxins to a gaseous state, and the proportion mobilized, including Ra-226/228 and Th-230/232.
Unfortunately, a geomembrane is not capable of containing the build up of pressure from the expanding space occupied by the wastes in their gaseous state. Unless that pressure can be relieved, the pressure will blow out the cover and, if there is no basal liner below, migrate laterally into adjoining buildings, where it will create explosive conditions…
For these reasons, in addition to the composite cover, gas wells, consisting of perforated 7″ vertical PVC or HDPE pipes, are drilled through the waste depths about every 300 feet apart. They are maintained under negative pressure in an effort to extract the landfill gases from the field surrounding each well, relieving the pressure and partly controlling for the release of methane and hazardous air pollutants. Equally important, and reciprocally, had there been no plastic cover on top, gas collection could not have worked, because the vacuum forces it uses to pull gas would also draw oxygen from the exposed surface, short circuiting the system. For infiltrating oxygen from the surface creates explosive conditions when mixed with methane below.” (p. 45)
“Radiotoxins are not supposed to be present in the gas extracted by these collection systems at municipal – which are not hazardous – landfills. Bridgeton Landfill, however, adjoins a radioactive waste dump, and groundwater studies show that the radioisotopes have dispersed throughout the landfill where 117 gas extraction wells continue operating amidst the major underground fire that the operator caused. Also, a comparison of elevated temperatures from the fire and the range that the radioactive wastes have migrated shows that the radioisotopes are volatizing. Therefore, the gas captured at Bridgeton Landfill will contain those radionuclides, and, this is the irony, will actually wind up defeating the protective intent of the composite cover and gas collection system.
Put aside the fact that, even when operated at a conforming site, gas collection systems perform poorly. Put aside, as well, that at Bridgeton, with its myriad non-conforming siting and design conditions, gas collection will be even more significantly degraded to a sub-marginal state.
In addition to all that, and most fundamental to understanding the magnitude of the problem here, the radiotoxins at Bridgeton that are mobilized and captured in the gas system do not somehow disappear. Rather, the collected gas is routed through header lines to a flare, which combusts the landfill gases at between 1,000 degree F to 2,000 degree F, which is intended to achieve a 98% destruction rate…
That is sufficiently hot to neutralize the mercaptans, which cause the distinctive odor from rotting garbage; hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOC), such as benzene; and halogenated compounds, such as chlorine.
There are concerns about dioxin and furan formation from chlorine as the gases cool down in the stack. But, put those aside, too, to address even more critical matters. For the overarching concern at Bridgeton is the fact that radioactive isotopes are not neutralized in the flare.
The fact is that radioisotopes cannot be destroyed by incineration. Those radium and thorium atoms that were illegally dumped at West Lake emit ionizing radiation from nuclear decay at a constant unvarying rate. Most of those other non-radioactive hazardous substances may be converted into more benign forms in the elevated temperatures of the flare. The radiotoxins, on the other hand, will continue releasing alpha particles at the same constant decay rate, with the same half-life, independent of whatever oxidized form they may take in the stack“. (p. 46)
“Furthermore, once the radioisotopes are combusted in the flare, they are ejected with greater exhaust gas velocity from a taller height out the flue stack, and distributed over a wider distance than the trajectory they otherwise would have followed.
Therefore, instead of preventing the release of alpha particles, the gas collection system itself is providing its own distinct pathway to release radioactivity into the atmosphere. Worse, these system disperse the radioisotopes even more widely into the atmosphere than would uncontrolled release diffused through a dirt cover. This remains the case even for as long as the ultra-low permeable cover is able to retain its structural integrity from the stresses of the underground fire.
The reason why this escape route for radioactivity has remained out of sight is because it is invisible and odorless, and the gas flows through the extraction system have, disturbingly, not been publicly analyzed for alpha, beta and gamma radiation. Instead of critical information, much of the voluminous gas data reported to MDNR is of comparatively marginal interest (methane, carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen).
Indeed, Republic’s recalcitrance has deviated so far from acceptable norms that the Attorney General was compelled to seek a court order to access something as basic and with the right of the State to seek as the company’s carbon monoxide data.” (p. 47) Emphasis added. Read the entire study here: http://www.beyondlandfilling.org/images/pdf/west-lake-bridgeton-landfill-fire-report.pdf
“In October 1990, the EPA placed the landfill on the National Priorities List, designating it as a Superfund site. The EPA has listed four potentially responsible parties: the US Department of Energy; the Cotter Corporation; and Republic Services subsidiaries Bridgeton Landfill and Rock Road Industries. EPA directed those parties to undertake investigations and evaluations consistent with CERCLA (Superfund) guidance.”
Republic Services Bad Corporate “Citizen” – Major Shareholder Bill Gates May Have Finally Dropped the Stock
“At Republic’s landfills in Ohio, Missouri, California, South Carolina and other states, communities have been exposed to landfill fires, years of noxious odors and environmental violations for which Republic has been fined and sued for millions of dollars. Republic has locked out its workers and forced strikes that have led to major trash pickup disruptions. In San Angelo, Texas, Republic is being audited for charging “environmental recovery fees” that were not authorized by the city’s contract. And in Polk County, Fla., Republic recently paid $2 million in settlements after overcharging the county for six years.
Republic’s largest shareholder is Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who owns nearly 25 percent of the company’s shares through Cascade Investment LLC – about $3 billion worth. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also owns 1.35 million shares of Republic stock. Michael Larson, chief investment officer at Cascade Investment and investment manager for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been a Republic Services board director since 2009. “Teamsters Applaud Putnam County Decision To Reject Republic Services’ Florida Landfill Bid” Updated On: Sep 18, 2014. http://www.teamstersjointcouncil3.org/?zone=/unionactive/view_article.cfm&HomeID=443653 (Emphasis added).
“Republic Serivces Toxic investments: Liabilities Mount at Nuclear Waste Landfill” http://teamster.org/sites/teamster.org/files/430revdrepublicservicestoxicreportweb.pdf
“Republic’s landfill has been in the news recently due to citizen complaints about persistent stench, the expanding underground fire, a recent explosion, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) investigation of radiation levels and groundwater contamination.” “Experts Brief Missouri Public Officials About Nuclear Weapons Waste and Landfill Fire Risks At Republic Services’ West Lake/Bridgeton Landfill”
MARCH 15, 2013 SOLID WASTE AND RECYCLING http://teamster.org/content/experts-brief-missouri-public-officials-about-nuclear-weapons-waste-and-landfill-fire-risks
Bill Gates seems to have finally dumped his shares in Republic services, instead of using his clout to fix the problem. http://youtu.be/_Uu03bFUuuw Boycott Microsoft and anything and everything to do with Bill Gates. He’s also trying to impose new nuclear power stations on the world.
“Same Old, Same Old: Profiteering and Political Cronyism Presaged the Dumping of Radioactive Waste at West Lake Landfill.” https://stlreporter.wordpress.com/tag/west-lake-landfill/ https://stlreporter.wordpress.com
Republic Services uses the landfill gas to generate electricity at many sites. It is unclear if this is or was the gas at the Bridgeton Landfill.
Landfill gas wellhead picture http://www3.epa.gov/lmop/basic-info/lfg.html