Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Radium above Federal Guidelines in Groundwater near West Lake

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Radium above Federal Guidelines in Groundwater near West Lake

Article excerpt

A long-awaited report on groundwater beneath the radioactively contaminated West Lake Landfill says radium levels in some samples are above federal guidelines but that it's difficult to pinpoint the source.

Requested by the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the site, the report from the U.S. Geological Survey looked at radium concentrations in several wells under the site. It found that 29 percent of its samples of combined radium exceeded federal guidelines.

Harder to tell, the report says, is whether those higher concentrations are due to chemicals seeping from the landfill or naturally occurring radium. And if the landfill is a factor, it's difficult to know whether it's the radioactive waste causing the higher readings or other waste buried there.

"The groundwater beneath the site within the boundaries of the site does contain, in some of the sampling wells, radium above the maximum contaminant levels," EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said in an interview Wednesday. "The origin of that radium cannot be established with the data thus far collected."

Brooks said there is no effect on drinking water.

"The radium that's found beneath the site does not affect the drinking water in that part of metro St. Louis," he said.

The USGS report says that the aquifers under the landfill generally flow toward the Missouri River. Some have worried about the potential for contaminants to migrate to the river, which does have a drinking water uptake downstream.

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday passed a resolution urging the EPA to release the report. Brooks said Wednesday morning members of the area's congressional delegation had been briefed on it.

Radium is one of the decay products from uranium processing from the country's nuclear weapons program and was used as a marker to indicate whether any of the waste is leaching into groundwater. …

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