Jack Suntrup Jul 22, 2023
Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for DHSS, said the department formulates its fish consumption advisories — which warn anglers to limit or avoid consumption of fish due to contaminants detected — based on review of data provided by other agencies.
But Cox said the health department doesn’t have current data on the Weldon Spring site or nearby Lakes 34, 35 and 36 in the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, which is adjacent to the Weldon Spring site.
The three lakes and the presence of uranium were mentioned in state and federal government records that were the subject of a recent report by The Missouri Independent on apparent disagreements between regulators about the pace of cleanup at Weldon Spring.
Cox said the DHSS has asked the Department of Energy, which controls the Weldon Spring site, for current fish tissue data in comments on previous five-year Weldon Spring site reviews at least as far back as 2016.
“DOE has previously told us that they assessed fish contamination risk already, but we have asked for them to update that assessment to account for any changes that have occurred,” Cox said in an email.
That report says the human health risk associated with eating fish from the three lakes with elevated levels of uranium “is below the EPA’s target range for unacceptable human risk levels.”
A U.S. Department of Energy spokesman in an email Friday said because monitoring results for surface water at Lakes 34, 35 and 36 have remained below the maximum contaminant level for uranium since the late 1990s, no further testing of fish has been conducted.
State Rep. Tricia Byrnes, R-Wentzville, said she is concerned that federal agencies are “not providing answers to the questions of our state agencies.
The Weldon Spring site has been a focus of area nuclear waste activists in the wake of recent reporting on St. Louis’ role in the development of nuclear weapons and the legacy of contamination left behind.
Mallinckrodt moved its uranium processing operations from its St. Louis plant to Weldon Spring, at the former site of a World War II-era TNT and DNT plant, in 1957. By the time it stopped uranium processing there in 1966, the site was heavily contaminated. Surface remediation concluded with completion of a 41-acre, onsite disposal cell in 2001 visible from Highway 94 just west of Francis Howell High School.
Uranium levels at the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area are referenced in a 2021 Department of Natural Resources review of a draft five-year report being prepared by the Department of Energy.
“The uranium levels at Busch Lake 34 continue to be higher than the other locations…,” the DNR document says, quoting from the Department of Energy draft.
“Please include a discussion on why the uranium levels are higher in Busch Lake 34 than other locations,” the DNR wrote to the Department of Energy.
In response, the Department of Energy told the DNR that the passage would be revised to: “Busch Lake 34, the relatively highest uranium concentration pond, is immediately downgradient of Burgermeister Spring where much of the groundwater from the Chemical Plant flows.