The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) evaluated air data collected near Bridgeton Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo., to determine the impacts of landfill gas emissions on people's health. The evaluated air data were collected by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2013 to 2016.
Now, DHSS is releasing the evaluation for public comment. The public comment period is open through November 20.
Bridgeton Landfill is a solid waste landfill located within the boundaries of the West Lake Landfill in the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Sub-surface smoldering at the landfill, which was first reported in December 2010, resulted in increased gas and odor emissions from the landfill. Today, chemical and odor emissions have been substantially reduced, according to DHSS.
Republic Services acquired Bridgeton Landfill in 2008 as part of the much larger acquisition of Allied Waste. Republic maintains a website dedicated to the Bridgeton Landfill that features official reports it files with DNR.
The findings of the report are:
- In the past, breathing sulfur-based compounds at concentrations detected in air near the landfill may have harmed the health of people living or working near the landfill by aggravating existing chronic diseases such as asthma or chronic cardiopulmonary disease, or caused respiratory effects such as chest tightness or difficulty breathing, especially in sensitive individuals living or working near the landfill. Breathing the odors of sulfur-based compounds may have also caused headache, nausea or fatigue.
- In the past, long-term or repeated exposure to sulfur-based compounds and their odors in the air near the landfill may have increased stress, impaired mood or increased the risk of respiratory infection for those living or working near the landfill.
- Currently, fugitive emissions from the landfill have decreased significantly, and breathing sulfur-based compounds in the air near the landfill is unlikely to harm most people's health. The odors of low concentrations of sulfur-based compounds may occasionally affect the health or quality of life of people living or working near the landfill.
- Breathing other (i.e., non-sulfur based) chemicals that have been detected in the air is not expected to harm people's health.
- Current cancer risks from breathing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) near the landfill are similar to those in other urban environments in the United States.
"We have seen a downward trend in sulfur-based chemicals in the air near the landfill, and this is encouraging," said Jonathan Garoutte, administrator of the DHSS Section for Environmental Public Health, in a statement. "In the past, odors and sulfur-based compounds were being detected much more frequently. Currently, breathing the air near the landfill is unlikely to harm people's health."
Prior to the completion of the remedial work at the landfill in 2013-2014, breathing sulfur-based compounds and their odors may have aggravated existing respiratory conditions, caused harmful respiratory effects or affected people's quality of life. Currently, breathing the air near the landfill is unlikely to harm people's health, noted DHSS.
Because occasional offensive odors may trigger asthma or affect quality of life, especially for sensitive individuals living or working near the landfill, DHSS recommends the following:
- When odors are objectionable, stay indoors as much as possible and avoid outdoor exercise. This is especially important for sensitive individuals: children, elderly adults and people with chronic respiratory conditions.
- Seek immediate medical advice for any acute respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing. Offensive odors may cause changes in breathing or trigger an asthma attack.
- Seek medical advice for any persistent symptoms that do not subside when the odors dissipate, including symptoms associated with stress.
- Always practice good health-protective measures, such as following recommended nutrition guidelines and getting regular exercise. Individuals at risk of chronic stress are advised to develop a comprehensive stress management plan.
- DHSS also recommends that air data continue to be collected while the sub-surface smoldering and remedial work on the landfill continue.
- DHSS will hold a public meeting during the public comment period in October. Details will be forthcoming.