By JIM SALTER , Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The operator of a suburban St. Louis landfill where an underground fire smolders near a Cold War-era nuclear waste will pay $16 million to settle a lawsuit with the state of Missouri.
The settlement announced Friday ends five years of litigation between the Missouri attorney general’s office and Bridgeton Landfill, along with its current and former owners.
The settlement calls for payment of $12.5 million to promote projects aimed at improving the environment, public health and safety, and the welfare of people near the landfill.
The remaining $3.5 million includes a $1 million penalty; $500,000 for damage to natural resources; and $2 million to reimburse the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for monitoring the site.
The underground fire began in December 2010 and has been blamed for an odor so strong that some nearby residents have said they are reluctant to leave their homes. The cause of the smoldering isn’t known.
Republic Services, which has owned the landfill for the past decade, said it has invested more than $200 million to control odor and to make sure the fire doesn’t reach the nuclear waste that was illegally buried at the site in the 1970s.
A news release from Republic Services said the company “has chosen to do the right thing for our community at every step. As a result, Bridgeton Landfill is and will remain in a managed state, and the site has become an industry model for responsible landfill management.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by then-Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat. Republican Josh Hawley, elected attorney general in 2016, said in a statement that the settlement “provides a path forward to ensure that the site will remain controlled and stable, and that it will continue to be closely monitored and studied under the supervision of the State.”
“Our hope is that this settlement is a first step toward allowing the community to begin the healing process,” Hawley said.