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Radioactive waste in North County requires real political leadership via The St. Louis American

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Earth Defense Coalition states in a Facebook video that they are calling attention to Republic Service’s continued mismanagement of radioactive waste illegally dumped at the landfills, which is now dangerously close contacting an underground chemical fire. 

Around 1942, local firm Mallinckrodt Chemical Company received a secret federal contract to spearhead the processing of raw uranium for nuclear weapons. Mallinckrodt needed to discretely deal with a large amount of hazardous waste; their cost-saving solution was to illegally dump 50-gallon drums of waste throughout North St. Louis County and St. Charles County.

Grassroots coalitions of neighbors throughout the region repeatedly discovered, exposed and demanded the cleanup of toxic and radioactive waste; the most recent successful example was Weldon Springs, which was remediated in 2001. At Weldon Springs, seven drinking well tests revealed radioactive contamination of the groundwater.

In the case of Bridgeton and West Lake landfills, reliable testing has not been conducted. Advocacy by watchdog group Just Moms STL resulted in additional tests, which confirmed the concern that radioactive waste was not confined to a small corner of West Lake Landfill, as previously alleged by officials. In fact, they found radioactive waste in the contiguous Bridgeton Landfill, much closer to the ongoing underground chemical fire.

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Some residents have elected to move away for peace of mind. Others cannot afford to leave. Meanwhile North St. Louis County residents already feel the impact of a slumping housing market that undercuts what is often the only wealth this middle-class community has accumulated.

We need a systematic, scientific, Cartesian-grid-based program of soil and water tests in Bridgeton and West Lake landfills, and in a half mile buffer surrounding all known current and past radioactive dump sites. We need a rigorous public health study of reported cancer and autoimmune disorder clusters in North County. We need a comprehensive study of home value depreciation and loan availability in the footprint of the contaminated area to measure the economic impacts to private citizens already incurred.

And, crucially, we need the landfill’s clean-up to be transferred immediately to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers FUSRAP, especially in this national political climate where the very existence of life-saving regulations is threatened by Donald Trump’s corporate agenda to end the EPA.

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