STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation danger

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Underground fire outside St. Louis nears nuclear waste dump

Post by Stab74 » Sun Oct 11, 2015 5:13 pm

Underground fire outside St. Louis has burned since 2010, nears nuclear waste dump

snip:
If the underground fire reaches the waste, "there is a potential for radioactive fallout to be released in the smoke plume and spread throughout the region," according to the disaster plan.

The plan calls for evacuations and development of emergency shelters, both in St. Louis County and neighboring St. Charles County.
Looks like you guys in the St Louis AO might want to give your bug out plans a once over. Odds seem against this happening, but hey, that's what we do here.
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Re: Underground fire outside St. Louis nears nuclear waste d

Post by KILLERtj » Sun Oct 11, 2015 6:05 pm

I've been reading of the ongoing events at this landfill for the last several days through friends living in the area. Its unfortunate that this occurs and effects residents years after the waste was dumped. Hoping for the best outcome.

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STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation danger

Post by crypto » Mon Oct 12, 2015 2:18 pm

Hey, I havent seen any discussion of this here yet, so here's the TL;DR:

The West Lake Landfill is a big landfill in Saint Louis County that has been designated a Superfund site for a while due to a fair amount of Manhattan Project related nuclear waste (mostly contaminated dirt) contained within a particular section of the landfill. The remediation plan was to cap the waste with extra dirt and monitor it in place to make sure it stays where it's supposed to.

This was a good idea until the landfill caught on fire a few years ago. Now there's a slow-burning underground fire slowly moving towards the nuclear waste section. The main elements present are uranium and thorium. If the fire reaches the nuclear waste, there is an expected fallout release in the form of smoke and soot that might extend 15-20 miles in the direction of the wind, for the duration that section of the landfill is burning.


There is no current plan for how to put out the fire.

Discuss!
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by majorhavoc » Mon Oct 12, 2015 2:51 pm

viewtopic.php?f=22&t=117121

This does seem rather frightening. Seems like the whole area is sitting on a ticking, slow release dirty bomb.

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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by shrapnel » Mon Oct 12, 2015 3:00 pm

Would you mind posting the long version? It was excellent.
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by KGBrick » Mon Oct 12, 2015 3:42 pm

crypto wrote:There is no current plan for how to put out the fire.

Discuss!
In my expert opinion, someone should probably develop a plan to put out the fire before it gets to the nuclear waste.

I don't know the scale of things here (I assume capital-B-big), but it might be easier to make a sort of firebreak - IE dig an enormous forking trench between the known boundary of the fire and the soil/debris surrounding the nuclear waste. Might then be wise to build a really, really nice retaining wall on the nuclear waste side so you don't start getting funny runoff spreading around more than it already is. This could become particularly important once the fire reaches the trench and parties concerned decide to dump a bunch some type of (liquid?) fire suppressant on it (water isn't always wise in this sort of thing - moisture can make this type of fire worse).

Just shooting from the hip, though - a fun mental exercise. I have a little bit of experience with underground fires (either a spontaneous or arson-ignited wood chip + brush fire) and they are exciting and interesting if not exactly what I'd call fun.

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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by doc66 » Mon Oct 12, 2015 3:55 pm

shrapnel wrote:Would you mind posting the long version? It was excellent.
:clap:
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by Zimmy » Mon Oct 12, 2015 4:29 pm

Maybe cap the whole thing with concrete and make self igniting charcoal?

The fire break idea sounds feasible.
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by crypto » Mon Oct 12, 2015 5:38 pm

Here's the long post I put on Facebook today. Its mostly a lot of Fallout 101 for people not in ZS:

Hey friends: Lets talk about radiation. Specifically, let's talk about West Lake Landfill and how it might affect you. No tl;dr here, because this is complex subject matter. So buckle up and put your learning hats on if you're in, and I'll post a funny picture of my dog in a minute if you're out.

Preface: I don't want to talk about the politics or economics of whether or not West Lake Landfill should have nuclear waste in it, or whether EPA should have removed it instead of capping it in-place, or whether Republic Services has done a shitty job of handling either the waste or the fire. That's not the point of this post. This post is about dealing with what could maybe happen, what the hazards are, and what steps are prudent to mitigate the risks involved in the situation.

In case you havent been paying attention, there is a giant landfill up in Bridgeton that has been a literal demonstration of the metaphorical garbage fire that is Saint Louis. It is an underground, slow-burning landfill fire that has been slowly approaching a special reserved area of the landfill that has a lot of low-level nuclear waste (lots of contaminated dirt) from the Manhattan Project.

It is a Superfund site, but the best remediation/cleanup plan for it was determined to be "cover it up with more dirt and leave it the hell alone". This would have been a decent plan, (more on that later) except for the subsequent underground fire. If and when this underground fire reaches the radioactive section of the landfill, it will almost certainly Become A Serious Problem.

The danger here is that if the fire reaches the radioactive material, it will begin to rise up into the air, either directly as combustion products, or attached to smoke and soot particles that can escape from the ground. There have been several instances in the recent past where the smoke from the fire has reached the surface and blown in the wind. The term used for radioactive particles in the air is conventionally called nuclear fallout. Yes, that fallout.

General estimates for where this fallout will go are in the range of 15 miles to the east of the landfill, but there's not a lot of confidence in that direction because it's based on what direction the wind is blowing. On average though, we're probably talking about 15 miles to the east before the fallout might settle out of the air. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you've ever smelled the landfill fire before, you're going to get some fallout if any fallout is blowing in the wind. That said, this information is mostly relevant for my friends who live in the western/northern suburbs of Saint Louis County, northern St. Louis City, and the northern parts of the Metro East, with a lesser possibility of being applicable to St. Charles or points further south throughout St. Louis County and City.

Now, here's some good news: The main radioactive elements present in the landfill are Uranium and Thorium. Both of these elements are pretty close to a best-case scenario for fallout, because they're pretty weak. Both elements decay into a series of other elements before finally reaching their stable state, Lead. But the entire decay chain involves the release alpha and beta particles, without any gammas. The * really * good news is that neither alphas or betas will generally penetrate your skin, so the main risk of receiving a radiation dose is ingestion or inhalation. A dust mask will keep it out of your nose and mouth, and goggles will keep it out of your eyes. If you're merely exposed to this fallout without getting any inside your body, a cool shower will do a solid job of removing it.

So lets talk about what to do if this happens. There will be a lot of official instructions, but they're all going to basically come from the old Civil Defense nuclear war playbook. Which is fine, people have spent half a century worrying about this stuff. But you should get ready for it now so you arent freaking out about it later. In general, "what to do" falls into 2 categories: 'Shelter in place' aka bugging-in, or 'evacuate' aka bugging-out.

Bugging in:
If the sirens ever start blaring because there is fallout in the air, and your home is in the affected area, you'll get a good chance to use that stupid duct tape and plastic sheeting that the Department of Homeland Security told you to buy after 9/11. You'll want to tape up the interior of your windows and doors to minimize the amount of particulates that can make their way inside your house. Tape up any kitchen and bathroom exhaust vents while you're at it. Don't worry, you wont suffocate, your house is not airtight. The goal to reduce the amount of dust and smoke that makes its way inside. Neither alpha nor beta particles will penetrate a wall or a roof into your home.

If you decide to ride it out at home, plan on spending as much time inside as is humanly possible. You don't need a moon suit to be safe outside in an alpha/beta environment, but you should have a good-fitting dust mask and covering your hair at an absolute minimum, and limit your exposure to the bare minimum. You'd want to decontaminate yourself before coming back inside, to avoid bringing radioactive material inside your exterior barriers. This means stripping down and hosing yourself off before re-entering, and leaving your clothes outside. You should probably plan on letting your dogs poo in the house, unfortunately.

Hopefully you have enough non-perishable food and water in the house to avoid traveling for the duration of the problem. (Pro-tip: bottled water is going to get real popular after the sirens go off, so stock up now. It's cheap). Water may or may not be contaminated, but it would be very dilute even if it were. It would be safe to wash with and to use in the toilet, but if the news says its not safe to drink, don't drink it. Keep a close eye and ear on the news, for updates on the situation regarding when its safe enough to go back to normal.

Bugging out:
If you work in the affected area, or are driving through the affected area, you probably don't want to be stuck at work for a couple weeks, and will want to GTFO for home. So do what you do every time you're on I-270 and you can smell the landfill: Set your car's cabin vent to Recirculate and turn off the fan, to keep from drawing in more outside air. If your car is new and has a cabin air filter, you may want to leave the fan on at a low speed to gradually pull the particles out of the air. If you have a dust mask in the glove box, now would be a good time to put it on. Don't dawdle and get to wherever you're going. When you get there, make sure to be a good houseguest and decontaminate yourself before entering. I hope you brought extra clothes, or you'll end up looking like Vincent and Jules at the end of Pulp Fiction.

Speaking of clothes, you should have a bug-out bag handy at home, in case you decide that you'd rather live normally at someone else's place instead of pretending you survived WW3 at home.

This bag should have at a minimum:
* A dust mask
* some close-fitting eye protection
* a hat
* a couple changes of clothes
* some food in case you get hungry and don't feel like stopping at the drive-thru.
* any medications you need to stay sane and/or alive
* some cash money
* a small transistor radio
* a phone charger
* contact information for friends/family
* critical documents related to your house/dwelling like a homeowners policy number and contact info for your insurance agent, and some way you can prove you live where you live, to get past the police when you come back home like a spare ID or a utility bill.

And the MOST important thing you should have is an agreed-upon plan of where you're going to go that you've discussed in advance.

So, in summary (haha, just kidding there *was* a tl;dr!), you should have a plan for what to do in the events that you live within the affected area, are passing through the effected area, or are going to leave the affected area. If you're going to stay in the area, you should have a basic ability to limit the ability of dust and smoke to enter your dwelling, via sealing doors and windows and decontaminating yourself prior to re-enty. You should plan on remaining indoors whenever possible, and protect your eyes and airway when outside in the fallout area. You should listen to the radio and watch TV for emergency instructions.

If you are leaving the area, to head to a friends house outside the affected area you should have a pre-prepared emergency bag with enough stuff to get you through a few days, including critical medications, along with home-related documents.

What happens if you don't do any of this shit? I don't think the radiation hazard will be enough to cause radiation sickness or death due to acute exposure, but you could expect to see an elevated health risk and the population would see and aggregate reduced longevity in proportion to their internal exposure.

If there's any desire to see sources for any of the material covered in this excruciatingly long post, let me know in the comments and I'll get you some links.

Get safe and stay safe.
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by crypto » Mon Oct 12, 2015 5:42 pm

Zimmy wrote:Maybe cap the whole thing with concrete and make self igniting charcoal?

The fire break idea sounds feasible.

Here's the problem with a firebreak: You can't just dig a trench down and pour concrete in it, because the whole thing is emitting a ton of methane. So any trenchwork has to be done by people wearing SCBA gear, using intrinsically safe mining equipment that doesnt spark, and they have to do dust remediation and radiation monitoring for radon, and everyone has to cross their fingers and hope it all doesn't turn into a gigantic methane fireball anyway.
It's a monumental problem that thus far no one has been willing to tackle.

People have even floated the idea of pumping refrigerated liquid down into the ground to form and maintain an ice barrier.


I wonder if it might be possible to borrow a dozen fracking rigs and pump pressurized cement in the ground.
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by raptor » Mon Oct 12, 2015 6:15 pm

I merged a similar duplicate topic into this thread.

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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by Boondock » Mon Oct 12, 2015 7:00 pm

Holy God, sounds like a bloody nightmare. Hopefully the powers that be can remedy this. I'll be following this thread with interest. Thanks to all for the updates.

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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by JayceSlayn » Mon Oct 12, 2015 9:33 pm

Al Jazeera America also did an interesting 3 part series about this earlier this year:
http://america.aljazeera.com/multimedia ... louis.html
http://america.aljazeera.com/multimedia ... pring.html
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2 ... onths.html

Any time you concentrate nuclear material somewhere, it is going to remain something to think about for a long time. Leaving aforementioned material in this location probably wasn't a very good idea long-term, but you could accuse nearly every situation that nuclear waste has been or is presently being proposed to be stored in of not living up to the long-term scale of the problem. Uranium has a half life comparable to the age of the Earth, so it's understandable that we have a hard time thinking of where to put something like that and not ever expect to see it again.

Really, the uranium itself is not a big problem, it is heavy, fairly unreactive, and with such a long half-life, fairly un-radioactive. It's daughters however, can be more troublesome, because they are lighter, more reactive or mobile in leachate/air, and also more radioactive.

Long term: your best planning would be to clean up the site, significantly beef-up the containment scheme, or get out of Dodge. Short term: I'd definitely go with a healthy dose of airborne and waterborne nuclear contamination protection. Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but I'd hope that any major radioactive release would be met with a swift response. Even so, you'd likely have to endure at minimum a few weeks (to maybe months) before anything could be done to stem the release (if ongoing).
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by Zimmy » Mon Oct 12, 2015 9:55 pm

Politics and liabilities be damned, it still seems feasible.

But I love a good problem. Troubleshooting industrial problems is my bread and butter.

Would you send me the links? Great table exercise if nothing else.
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by crypto » Tue Oct 13, 2015 1:05 am

Zimmy wrote:Politics and liabilities be damned, it still seems feasible.

But I love a good problem. Troubleshooting industrial problems is my bread and butter.

Would you send me the links? Great table exercise if nothing else.
There is an absolute treasure trove of data collected here :

https://www.facebook.com/groups/508327822519437/files/

disregard the discussion, theres a lot of panicked nonsense, and a lot of denial, all compressed into the same place. But there's a shit-ton of documents collected there from the state government, the county government, Republic Services, EPA and the NRC.
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by sheddi » Tue Oct 13, 2015 3:40 pm

crypto wrote:There is an absolute treasure trove of data collected here :

https://www.facebook.com/groups/508327822519437/files/
That's fascinating, thank you.

(My interest is largely academic as I'm 4,000 miles downwind :) )
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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by jeffmw078 » Tue Oct 13, 2015 6:35 pm

So how can we prepare to bugout if we dont know what the wind patterns will be till it happens.

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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by KGBrick » Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:09 am

jeffmw078 wrote:So how can we prepare to bugout if we dont know what the wind patterns will be till it happens.
Crypto's very informative post covers that pretty well. I cut out the preface and bugging in sections but they are also worth reading.
crypto wrote:Bugging out:
If you work in the affected area, or are driving through the affected area, you probably don't want to be stuck at work for a couple weeks, and will want to GTFO for home. So do what you do every time you're on I-270 and you can smell the landfill: Set your car's cabin vent to Recirculate and turn off the fan, to keep from drawing in more outside air. If your car is new and has a cabin air filter, you may want to leave the fan on at a low speed to gradually pull the particles out of the air. If you have a dust mask in the glove box, now would be a good time to put it on. Don't dawdle and get to wherever you're going. When you get there, make sure to be a good houseguest and decontaminate yourself before entering. I hope you brought extra clothes, or you'll end up looking like Vincent and Jules at the end of Pulp Fiction.

Speaking of clothes, you should have a bug-out bag handy at home, in case you decide that you'd rather live normally at someone else's place instead of pretending you survived WW3 at home.

This bag should have at a minimum:
* A dust mask
* some close-fitting eye protection
* a hat
* a couple changes of clothes
* some food in case you get hungry and don't feel like stopping at the drive-thru.
* any medications you need to stay sane and/or alive
* some cash money
* a small transistor radio
* a phone charger
* contact information for friends/family
* critical documents related to your house/dwelling like a homeowners policy number and contact info for your insurance agent, and some way you can prove you live where you live, to get past the police when you come back home like a spare ID or a utility bill.

And the MOST important thing you should have is an agreed-upon plan of where you're going to go that you've discussed in advance.

So, in summary (haha, just kidding there *was* a tl;dr!), you should have a plan for what to do in the events that you live within the affected area, are passing through the effected area, or are going to leave the affected area. If you're going to stay in the area, you should have a basic ability to limit the ability of dust and smoke to enter your dwelling, via sealing doors and windows and decontaminating yourself prior to re-enty. You should plan on remaining indoors whenever possible, and protect your eyes and airway when outside in the fallout area. You should listen to the radio and watch TV for emergency instructions.

If you are leaving the area, to head to a friends house outside the affected area you should have a pre-prepared emergency bag with enough stuff to get you through a few days, including critical medications, along with home-related documents.

What happens if you don't do any of this shit? I don't think the radiation hazard will be enough to cause radiation sickness or death due to acute exposure, but you could expect to see an elevated health risk and the population would see and aggregate reduced longevity in proportion to their internal exposure.

If there's any desire to see sources for any of the material covered in this excruciatingly long post, let me know in the comments and I'll get you some links.

Get safe and stay safe.

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Re: STL Metro Area: West Lake Landfill fallout/radiation dan

Post by RickOShea » Wed Oct 14, 2015 1:11 pm

Claude ham mercy......I'm starting to understand now why a friend's father wanted, "Better here than Missouri" engraved on his gravestone. Image
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