Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bill Transferring West Lake Landfill Oversight to Corps of Engineers Won't Pass Congress

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bill Transferring West Lake Landfill Oversight to Corps of Engineers Won't Pass Congress

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * A congressional effort to move oversight for cleanup of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Army Corps of Engineers won't pass the current Congress.

The measure cleared the Senate earlier this year, but it remains bottled up in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with no plans for a final hearing before sending it to the full House, according to a spokesman for Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.

Shimkus holds a key subcommittee post and has questions about the move. Congress has only a handful of days in session before a new Congress takes over in January.

Little is known about where the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump stands on the cleanup at the West Lake and Superfund sites around the county, although activists worry that a hostility toward government regulations and the EPA could further complicate cleanup plans.

Missouri members of Congress have consistently criticized the EPA for not coming up with a plan to clean up the site, which contains hazardous waste from World War II atomic bomb projects and has been the source of health-related complaints by neighboring residents for years.

On Tuesday, a Bridgeton couple filed a lawsuit against private companies associated with management of West Lake and the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill and the complex's history as a disposal site for radioactive waste.

Michael and Robbin Dailey alleged that recent tests revealed unacceptable levels of radioactivity in and around their home a half mile from the dump.

The EPA reiterated that it had no evidence that radioactive material was leaving the landfill.

The bill shifting the cleanup to the Corps had bipartisan sponsorship from St. Louis-area members of Congress as well as activists involved with the waste site.

Its failure in this Congress set off political finger-pointing directly related to Missouri's 2018 Senate race.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., accused a potential opponent, Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, of being unable to persuade fellow Republicans to vote for the transfer.

Republicans pointed out there was bipartisan opposition to the idea in the House, including from the influential energy committee's Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who raised questions about precedent for Superfund sites in his state.

Wagner is a senior deputy whip and the sophomore class representative to the House Republican leadership. McCaskill did not mention Wagner by name Wednesday, but in a statement issued by her office she was clearly referring to her potential 2018 rival.

McCaskill pointed out that she and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., were able to get the bill through the Senate, then said: "For the life of me, I can't figure out why the U.S. House including a member of our delegation who's a member of House leadership can't get it done. …

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