St. Louis Radioactive Waste Mess Demands Action

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has received its second proposal to leave radioactive waste at a site adjacent to Earth City in northwest St. Louis County and now we must unite to stop it. The site, known as the West Lake Landfill, contains some of the most hazardous radioactive waste in our nation and it’s sitting in the floodplain of the Missouri River, the source of drinking water for north St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis.

The waste at West Lake is part of a broader history of radioactive waste that spans from downtown to St. Charles County. In February, residents living in Hazelwood and along Coldwater Creek met with local attorneys (http://www.kmov.com/news/local/Nearby-residents-ready-to-sue-over-contaminated-St-Louis-County-creek–139049474.html ) to explore connections between rare cancers and health problems due to exposures from living along the waste haul routes and the contaminated creek. Lawsuits are expected to be filed within weeks.

Several St. Louis radioactive sites have been cleaned up or are in the process of being cleaned up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a part of the Formerly Utilized Site Remedial Action Program (FURSAP). FUSRAP addresses radioactive sites related to the Manhattan Project and the development of atomic weapons. For some reason EPA, not the Corps, is in charge of the West Lake Landfill site where the same radioactive wastes were illegally dumped. And the EPA wants to leave them there.

A 1988 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Report describes the site’s history. From 1942 to 1957 Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in St. Louis processed uranium for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). In addition to North American ores, in 1944, the plant began processing rich uranium ores from the Belgian Congo, which brought to this continent uranium of purity unmatched by North American ores which subsequently generated an equally rich waste containing extraordinarily high levels of uranium and related radioactive elements.

Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s the highly valuable left-over MCW wastes were bought, sold, and spilled along their route into commerce. An NRC investigation in 1976 revealed that 43,000 tons of material was moved from Hazelwood and dumped at the West Lake Landfill in 1973.  The West Lake Landfill was never designed to contain radioactive waste – and with groundwater running under its unlined bottom toward the Missouri River – it is not an appropriate long-term storage site for radioactive material.

The Florissant City Council and other local governments have already passed resolutions calling for the West Lake site to be moved to the authority of the FUSRAP program and for the radioactive waste to be removed from the floodplain. Coalition for the Environment Executive Director, the late Roger Pryor, wrote that “Dumping radioactive waste in a floodplain is illegal and the decision to keep it there is just the same as putting it there in the first place.” He was right. EPA is wrong.

Please help keep Missouri safe. We must be united on this critical issue. Call (R) Sen. Roy Blunt, (D) Sen. Claire McCaskill and (D) Rep. Lacy Clay, (R) Rep. Todd Akin or (D) Rep. Russ Carnahan and ask them to transfer jurisdiction for the remediation of West Lake from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers. The West Lake radioactive wastes should be excavated and transported to a federally licensed radioactive waste facility, away from drinking water and away from people.

Then, make sure local elected officials hear from you too. Tell St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, St. Louis County Council, City of St. Louis mayor Francis Slay and the St. Louis City Council you don’t want radioactive waste left in the floodplain of the source of St. Louis’ drinking water.

If you live in St. Louis County be sure to ask the local city council to pass a resolution asking the federal government to transfer authority of the West Lake Landfill from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers FUSRAP program. For more information visit our website moenviron.org.