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“Hot spot” near nuclear waste has St. Louis residents on edge via CBS

There is growing fear in a suburban St. Louis community over a potential threat buried in the ground. A local landfill contains nuclear waste and just three football fields away, a “hot spot” has been burning underground in a second landfill.

Federal officials insist the so-called “smoldering event” is contained, and not advancing towards the waste. But nearby residents have lived with both the burn and the waste for years, and they say they are fed up, reports CBS News correspondent Vinita Nair.

Hundreds of people demanded answers Monday night from federal officials.

“You can’t 100 percent guarantee that we’re okay,” said one resident.

“We don’t go outside, we don’t open our windows,” said another.

St. Louis’ nuclear legacy dates to World War II, when uranium was processed here for America’s first nuclear weapons. One landfill – named a Superfund cleanup site in 1990 — houses illegally disposed nuclear residue from the Cold War era. The other, about 1,000 feet from the radioactive material, has a slow burn that has been smoldering for five years.

No one knows for sure what will happen if the fire comes into contact with it. The sites where the leftover waste was stored have been cleaned, but some low-level radiation has moved into neighborhoods.

“I don’t know why they ignored it for so long, I really don’t,” said Dawn Chapman, who lives less than two miles away from the landfills. Chapman helped start a citizen activist group to educate her neighbors.

“I cannot believe that somebody and anybody in their right mind would think that you can leave the world’s oldest nuclear weapon’s waste sitting on the surface of a landfill for over 40 years and there not be a consequence to that,” Chapman said.

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