Radioactive contamination has been discovered at three residential properties in the St. Louis area, adding fuel to a long-running controversy about how much damage was done to the environment and possibly people’s health by nuclear-weapons work performed there decades ago.
The contamination, primarily radioactive thorium, was 6 inches or more below ground in yards and isn’t considered an imminent threat, according to a Corps spokesman, who said the agency plans to remove it. The Corps is continuing to take samples in the area, including at other home sites. “We have a long way to go,” said the spokesman, Michael Petersen.
For years, the Corps has been cleaning up largely industrial and commercial sections in the St. Louis area that were contaminated as part of the weapons-program work that began during World War II. The national legacy of radioactive and chemical contamination from the atomic-weapons program, including its impact on St. Louis, was examined in a 2013 Wall Street Journal series.
The contaminated residential properties are near Coldwater Creek, which, which has been at the center of ongoing tensions over the past few years runs through suburban areas northwest of downtown St. Louis and passes an area formerly used to store weapons-program waste.
Federal officials have long acknowledged contamination got into the creek, which feeds into the Missouri River, and included it in their cleanup work. How far the taint was carried has remained a question.
Current and former residents of nearby areas have argued that contamination from the creek had spread into their neighborhoods during periods of flooding and they have pushed for extensive sampling of houses and yards. They also contend residents have suffered from an unusually large number of cancer cases and other maladies possibly linked to radioactive contamination.
The Corps’ latest discovery confirms there is reason for concern, said Jenell Wright, a citizens’ group leader. “We have proof from the federal government that thorium is in people’s backyards.”
The thorium is a leftover from uranium-processing work done for the weapons program. The contamination likely was deposited by flooding from the creek, said Mr. Petersen, the Corps spokesman.
Read more at Nuclear Waste Taints St. Louis Suburb