- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The operator of the Bridgeton Landfill in suburban St. Louis will pay nearly $7 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of homeowners living nearby who claimed that noxious odors and an underground fire lowered property values and harmed their quality of life.

The settlement, announced Thursday, calls for the landfill to pay $6.8 million to residents of more than 400 homes near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, minus attorney fees. A federal magistrate judge has given preliminary approval to the deal between the subsidiary of Republic Services and the residents who filed the nuisance claim. A hearing to formally approve the settlement is scheduled for Aug. 1.

“We are the first to acknowledge that the odors have been a source of considerable public concern and frustration,” landfill spokesman Russ Knocke said in a written statement. “We share that frustration and hope that the resolution of this suit will bring peace of mind to our community.”

Operators of the landfill have spent more than $100 million on efforts to contain the underground smoldering, which is near a site where nuclear waste is buried, and to eliminate a smell so strong that residents have said they are sometimes hesitant to leave their homes.

Under the proposed deal, affected residents of the Spanish Village subdivision would receive $26,250 each. Plaintiffs living in the Terrisan Reste mobile home park would be paid $15,375. And residents of the Carrollton Village condominiums would receive $3,825.

The six named plaintiffs representing the larger class would get an additional $11,250. The settlement amount includes a 25 percent payment for legal fees.

The proposed settlement will not affect a pending lawsuit against the landfill by the Missouri attorney general’s office. Last month, a regional administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees a Superfund waste site there, told Attorney General Chris Koster that progress on the landfill cleanup continues.

Plaintiff’s attorney Ted Gianaris said he hopes the pending settlement will be a precursor for further remediation of the waste site.

“The pressure brought to bear has forced Republic and the Bridgeton Landfill to take the necessary steps,” he said.

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Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at https://twitter.com/azagier .

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