ST. LOUIS (CN) - A federal judge extended the opt-in deadline for neighbors of a landfill who were exposed to noxious odors to join a class action settlement, and clarified that joining the agreement does not wave rights to sue if contamination continues.
More than 600 neighbors of the Bridgeton Landfill, a subsidiary of Republic Services, filed a class action in October 2013. An underground fire at the defunct landfill was reported more than three years ago. The fire brought noxious odors to neighboring homes and businesses, with concerns about the fire's proximity to radioactive waste at the adjacent West Lake Landfill, also owned by Republic Services.
Bridgeton is a suburb of St. Louis.
In April, Republic entered into a $6.8 million settlement
to compensate the neighbors for lost property value due to the odors.
U.S. District Judge Thomas C. Mummert III granted motions amending the settlement on June 13. Mummert's ruling reserves the right for residents to sue Republic later for any radiation exposure. Residents are concerned that the underground fire could spread to the West Lake Landfill, which has radioactive waste. Elevated levels of benzene were detected along West Lake's perimeter on June 1, drawing the ire
of the Missouri attorney general.
Mummert also extended the deadline to opt in to July 18.
"The judge's order provides a welcomed clarification for our clients and allows them more time to make a decision," said Ted Gianaris, a lawyer for The Simmons Law Firm, who represents the residents, in a statement. "All class members, even those who may have previously opted out or objected to the lawsuit, may still participate in the settlement."
Both sides consented to the amendments.
"The addendum gives class members the assurance they deserve," Gianaris said in the statement. "If folks are sick or lose value due to radiation contamination, their legal rights will still be intact."
Bridgeton, pop. 11,630, is next to Lambert International Airport in northwest St. Louis County.