A decision is expected to be announced any day by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill site in St. Louis County.
West Lake is one of the last sites in the St. Louis region still contaminated with the radioactive waste generated during the processing in downtown St. Louis of uranium for atomic bombs decades ago.
In 1976, the Post-Dispatch revealed to the public, for the first time, that uranium waste and other related radioactive materials had been dumped at West Lake in 1973. It was only after the news stories appeared that the federal government admitted to the public that there was radioactive contamination at West Lake. The waste remains in a populated area upstream from the source of public drinking water for much of the St. Louis region and upwind from the air we breathe.
It is shameful that nothing has been done to remove the West Lake waste despite decades of news reports, letters and countless community hearings, including one in March at the District 9 Machinists Hall in Bridgeton that attracted 1,000 people.
This year the EPA issued its proposal — to remove only a portion of the radioactive materials from the landfill and the placement of a “cover” on top of the remaining waste.
It is irresponsible that the EPA has proposed to leave the toxic waste in the floodplain of the Missouri River. This river is the major source of drinking water for metropolitan St. Louis.
The radioactive materials at West Lake will continue to leach into the ground water. That water flows into the Missouri River that so many St. Louisans drink. Some of the radioactive materials will also escape into the air. This landfill is in an area subject to floods, tornadoes, fire and earthquakes.