- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

BRIDGETON, Mo. (AP) - A $6.8 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit over a smoldering St. Louis County landfill could be in jeopardy as some residents now say they won’t accept the deal.

A tentative agreement reached in April calls for Republic Services to pay an average of nearly $13,000 per household to hundreds of residents near the Bridgeton Landfill. The homeowners’ suit claimed that noxious odors and an underground fire lowered property values. They also worry that agreeing to settle could limit their future legal options.

But with the first settlement acceptance deadline arriving on Friday for residents of the 400 homes closest to the landfill, some residents of the Spanish Village subdivision near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport are objecting because they face larger losses in property values than what they’d be paid, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1r0TxES ) reported.

“The settlement was sorely inadequate. It’s almost insulting,” said Robbin Dailey. “We were hoping that it was going to also include loss of value to property and reduction of quality of life.”

Dailey told the newspaper her home was recently appraised and devalued by $45,000 because of the landfill. One three-bedroom house in Spanish Village now for sale for $63,00 was purchased for more than twice as much in 2008, online real estate listings show.

“It’s tainted the real estate market,” Dailey said.

Dailey and other subdivision residents said they did not know of any neighbors who are accepting the payout. Two dozen homes in Spanish Village have yard signs opposing the settlement.

A hearing to approve the settlement is scheduled in August. The case could go to trial if fewer than 95 percent of residents accept the settlement. Notices giving residents 30 days to respond were sent at different times, meaning staggered deadlines for homeowners to decide whether to accept.

The settlement awards vary based on property values and proximity to the landfill. After attorneys’ fees, households in Spanish Village could receive $26,250, while those in the Terrisan Reste mobile home community were offered $15,375. The offer for Carrollton Village condominiums was $3,900.

A spokesman for Republic Services called the settlements “fair, reasonable and adequate.” And plaintiffs’ attorney Ted Gianaris said he anticipates many property owners to take the deal.

“There is a large group of people who seem to think it’s a good, fair-money-fast settlement and want to accept and use the money for options they wouldn’t have otherwise, like pay off debts or get caught up on their mortgage and put their home up for sale,” he said. He also acknowledged that the uncertainty about the landfills’ future has hurt the chances of getting the settlement approved.

“People are truly worried about their future, and that worry breeds some contempt for settling a lawsuit when they don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week,” Gianaris said.

Accepting the settlement precludes filing any further claims for property damage due to the landfill’s odor. The settlement does not prevent personal injury lawsuits for future health problems related to the burning landfill, which sits next to radioactive waste at the West Lake landfill.

An underground fire that started at the Bridgeton Landfill more than three years ago has stirred up noxious odors as well as concerns about the adjacent radioactive waste. The odors could get worse because construction is expected to begin soon on a barrier between the two landfills to keep the fire from reaching the radioactive waste.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com


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