A drawing, by an unknown artist, of a proposed uranium processing plant in Weldon Spring (Copyright by the State Historical Society of Missouri).
Shortly after World War II, the federal government dumped massive piles of radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project in several areas of greater St. Louis, including near the airport, in Weldon Spring and along Latty Avenue next to Coldwater Creek.
Those piles were repeatedly moved and reburied and, to this day, 47,000 tons of radioactive waste is buried in the West Lake Landfill in northern St. Louis County.
In 1990, the federal government designated the West Lake Landfill a federal Superfund cleanup site. Decades later, an underground fire was reported in the neighboring Bridgeton landfill, leading to noxious fumes and odors and stoking alarm about the potential consequences if the fire reached the radioactive waste.
For the past two decades, the state, federal agencies and residents have fought over testing, the levels of contamination in nearby groundwater and outside perimeter fencing and how best to handle, and remove, the radioactive waste.
There’s been no clear consensus to the problem. After years of delays, the Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the Superfund cleanup at West Lake, says work to remove some of the waste could begin as early as the spring of 2024. The EPA is holding a community meeting with residents on March 28, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Machinists Hall in Bridgeton.
In recent months, the Jana Elementary School, which sits in the floodplain of Coldwater Creek, has become a flashpoint amid concerns from parents about radioactive exposure and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to conduct tests at a popular park and hiking spot that is bisected by the creek.
The Missouri Independent and MuckRock are investigating the history of the dumping and cleanup efforts of the radioactive waste and would like to hear from those most impacted. Please fill out the form below. The information provided is not for publication but a journalist may be in touch with you to get more information for future coverage.
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