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Ghosts Of Hiroshima Haunt Fuming Landfill Near Ferguson, Missouri via The Seattle Medium

BRIDGETON, Mo. – Outside Ferguson, Missouri, another issue burns. This time, it’s environmental.

An underground fire smolders toward radioactive waste tied to the atomic bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This subterranean inferno threatens to sicken area residents, just 10 miles from the site of the controversial, police-involved death of Michael Brown.

Local citizens worry the slowly advancing fire, which has burned at the Bridgeton Landfill since 2010, will reach the World War II-era nuclear refuse at the neighboring West Lake Landfill.

This menace unfolds in a disproportionately Black area. The African-American population of St. Louis County, home to Bridgeton and Ferguson, was 23.9 percent in 2014, according to Census data. That is nearly double the 13.2 percent Black share of America’s population.

Residents already complain of a strong smell of garbage and rotten eggs, elevated health problems, and slow government and corporate action. The landfills are owned, largely, by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — the richest man on Earth, according to Forbes, with a net worth of $77.6 billion.

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This toxic waste survived the Manhattan Project’s uranium-enrichment program. A contractor for the Cotter Corporation illegally dumped it at West Lake in 1973. Since then, a full cleanup has remained in bureaucratic and legal limbo while the EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private companies have wrestled over who will mop up this mess.

Even worse, an underground fire spontaneously combusted at the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill in 2010, inching ever closer to the atomic waste at West Lake. The EPA, last December, ordered Republic Services to pay to build a barrier between the fire and the radioactive refuse.

Finding a solution to the problem is “a top priority for EPA,” said the agency’s Region 7 administrator Mark Hague. The EPA says residents are not at risk, but its new report found the fire was only a couple hundred feet from the toxic material — twice as close as previously thought.

Affected Black residents tend to be “more middle-income folks,” said Adolphus M. Pruitt II, president of the St. Louis City NAACP. “But they’re being impacted the same as anybody else as related to the health concerns and the concerns about their property values, their ability to liquidate their property or sell their property in the future — if for some reason they decide to move.”

“Residents want to be able to move out of the area, hoping the state or the government will buy them out,” said Pruitt. “I don’t hold much faith in that happening.”

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