Deepening Our Commitment

Jared Opsal

By Jared Opsal,
Executive Director, Missouri Coalition For The Environment

MCE has worked on nuclear and other hazardous waste issues throughout Missouri for decades, and recently we have been engaged with addressing the public health disaster at West Lake Landfill and Coldwater Creek. In partnership with Just Moms STL, we were successful in receiving a record of decision from the EPA in 2018 to commit to a cleanup of approximately 70% of the nuclear waste at West Lake Landfill, and we have worked with other community groups over the years to sound the alarm about Coldwater Creek. These hazardous sites have caused irreparable damage to the lives of thousands of people, and they will continue to do so until they are cleaned up and people are removed from harm’s way.

This is why we have partnered with Just Moms STL once again to engage in a broad community outreach program to educate people who are unaware of the dangers these places continue to pose on the people living and working near them. With the help of the Missouri Foundation for Health, we have hired a new staff person, Moesha Baptiste (see our new staff update for more info about Moesha), who will work alongside Just Moms STL to inform thousands of new people in North St. Louis City and County about these hazardous sites, and they will engage with the community to address other hazardous sites they have identified as a concern. In partnership with others, MCE will create an historical online resource that will detail the nearly 80 year nuclear legacy of St. Louis, which will provide future generations an easily understandable resource to detail what has taken place, where are the sites of concern, and who the responsible parties have been.

Another site that has already been identified as a concern by the community is Maline Creek, also known as Moline Creek. There is evidence of extreme erosion in some locations of the creek bank that are causing damage to people’s yards and homes, there is a concern about asbestos being left in the creek bed near an abandoned asbestos manufacturing site, and there may be other toxic substances in the water and surrounding soils due to its proximity to a PFAS site at the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Furthermore, we will conduct water tests at these sites to measure the extent of contamination they have suffered, which will provide hard evidence of the pollution the people living and working near these waterways have endured.

Our combined outreach efforts will involve door knocking, attending and hosting public meetings and events, meeting with government agencies, and working with elected officials to raise the profile of these issues with the ultimate goal being to remove these hazardous materials and protect people’s environmental health. We will also follow the lead of the communities we work with to ensure their concerns and needs are being met regarding these environmental issues; such as advocating for buyouts, further testing from government agencies, comprehensive health studies, etc.

The Missouri Foundation for Health is funding this effort for the next three years, but we anticipate the need will continue well beyond that timeframe. This is why we will also work to assist community groups, such as our partner Just Moms STL, to build their capacity to tackle these problems even as funding resources shift. In order to resolve these problems as expeditiously as possible, we will need consistent public pressure coming from a multitude of individuals and organizations on our elected officials and government agencies to follow through with cleanups and to ensure people are centered in those efforts.

There are many obstacles to accomplish our goals to protect people and their environment, but people like Dawn Chapman and Karen Nickel from Just Moms STL, nuclear activist and one of our founding members Kay Drey, our fearless and brilliant staff, our volunteers and members, and anyone who cares about their environment all give us hope. We will succeed, and it is everyone’s combined efforts that will make it so.