Bridgeton’s West Lake landfill sits atop 40,000 tons of radioactive waste, illegally dumped there nearly five decades ago. Much of the buried material was left over from experiments conducted as part of the Manhattan Project, the top secret crash project during World War II to build an atomic bomb. Now, an underground fire in a connected landfill could spread to the buried cache, which could send radioactive waste into the local air and water supply.
Or, if local EPA officials and geological experts are to be believed, maybe not. There are conflicting studies commissioned by the various parties in this saga that, maybe predictably, have produced very different results.
Since the fire began years ago, residents, activists, politicians and the landfill owners have battled over the smell coming from the underground fire and the future of the radioactive waste buried several hundred yards away.