Missouri Landfill Operator Sues for Help with EPA Cleanup

October 29, 2018

The operator of a suburban St. Louis, Mo., landfill where an underground fire smolders near illegally dumped radioactive waste is suing the drugmaker whose predecessor processed the Cold War-era nuclear material.

Bridgeton Landfill LLC seeks help paying for the $205 million cleanup of the Superfund site in the lawsuit filed Tuesday against Mallinckrodt LLC, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The suit says Mallinckrodt’s predecessor, Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, refined uranium compounds that were used in the U.S. government’s Manhattan Project decades ago at its factory north of downtown St. Louis.

Later, leached barium sulfate from the weapons program was mixed with contaminated soil and used to cover trash at the West Lake Landfill, which is adjacent to the smoldering Bridgeton Landfill. Republic Services, which subsequently acquired both landfills through a merger, has spent millions of dollars to ensure that the fire and the nuclear waste don’t meet.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s remedy calls for excavating about 70 percent of the landfill’s radioactive waste and disposing of it out of state. The agency identified the landfill operator as one of three potentially responsible parties. Mallinckrodt was not among them, although it has been named in more than 140 federal lawsuits filed on behalf of north St. Louis County residents and heirs who claimed exposure to radioactive waste caused cancers and deaths.

The suit says Mallinckrodt should have to pay the costs Bridgeton Landfill has incurred and will incur during the cleanup, including interest, in addition to attorneys’ fees. It also seeks a declaratory judgment that the drug manufacturer is liable for future response costs or damages.

Mallinckrodt said in a written statement that federal officials approached Mallinckrodt to refine uranium ore as part of America’s nuclear program shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The statement said the government “understands that Mallinckrodt did not send any residues or other materials associated with this government work to West Lake Landfill.”

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