(NEW YORK) –Yesterday, Teamsters with the Solid Waste and Recycling Division, Saint Louis residents Dawn Chapman and Karen Nickel, founders of JustMoms STL and Center for Health Environment and Justice founder Lois Gibbs lodged a formal human rights complaint with the United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment.
The coalition has been corresponding with the U.N. Rapporteur regarding the effects of the ongoing West Lake Bridgeton landfill environmental crisis in Missouri, its impact on surrounding communities and the need for corporate accountability and government action.
An underground fire has been raging for five years at the West Lake complex, which contains thousands of tons of illegally-dumped radioactive nuclear wastes in an unlined landfill. The subsurface fire is moving closer to the nuclear waste and is releasing toxic chemicals that residents and workers can smell for miles. The landfill complex is owned by the second-largest landfill company in the United States, Republic Services [NYSE: RSG], itself controlled by one of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates.
In December 2015, more than 18 witnesses testified to a jury composed of leading civic and religious figures in Saint Louis. Witnesses detailed their many health problems, including deaths among family, friends and neighbors; asthma and other respiratory ailments; sharp drops in home values; and the inability to enjoy the outdoors and their homes.
Teamster members and other union workers from the warehouse sector and other businesses surrounding the landfill also testified at the tribunal.
“Workers and residents need real protection and respect, and Bill Gates and Republic Services need to step up to the plate and put real resources to resolving this untenable situation, instead of evading accountability,” said Chuck Stiles, Assistant Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division.
“Only a few days ago, on April 28, we commemorated Workers Memorial Day, for all those who die or get hurt in the workplace,” Stiles said. “Workplaces should not be a threat to workers, nor the workers and families living around them.”
The other members of the delegation, including Karen Nickel and Dawn Chapman, who live in proximity to the landfill, pointed out how the radioactive material has been dumped illegally and left unmanaged for over 40 years, while the fire, which has been burning for five years, is expected to burn for many more, leaving families and neighbors trapped with no end in sight.
They are reaching out to the United Nations Human Rights Commission because they feel that their fundamental human rights to clean air, water and health are being violated, and fear they have no redress.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.