St. Louis floodplains at risk from radioactive landfill, says WUSTL geologist

St. Louis floodplains are in danger of contamination from radioactive wastes dumped years ago at a landfill in North St. Louis County, according to Robert Criss, Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Criss visited the contaminated West Lake Landfill recently as part of a fact-finding tour organized by St. Louis-area politicians and environmental groups. He told the group that radioactive wastes stored at the site already are in contact with groundwater, which flows into the nearby Missouri River, and that the Great Flood of 1993 nearly breached a levee that protects the site from flooding.

“The takeaway message here is the landfill is unlined … it would not even be permitted to put your trash can — your waste from your kitchen — in this landfill today,” said Criss in comments captured in a St. Louis American news video on the local push for a federal clean-up of the site.

“This is not responsible,” Criss said. “It would not be allowed today. We should put pressure on the authorities to clean this up.”