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EPA Puts Off Clean-up of Nuclear Dumpsite, As Lawsuits Pile Up and Activists Circle the Wagons

Categories: Environment

A Brief History of Waste Management at West Lake and Nuclear Waste in St. Louis


1939 - West Lake Landfill, owned by Rock Road Industries, opens as a limestone quarry and crushing operation.

1942 - Mallinckrodt Chemical Works agrees to enrich uranium for the first atomic bomb under the Manhattan Project (between July and December they produce a ton of pure uranium oxide per day)

1947 - The Manhattan Project condemns 21.7 acres north of Lambert Field Airport to serve as a disposal site for waste from Mallinkrodt and other facilities.

1950 - Portions of the quarried areas in West Lake begin to be used as a landfill.

1957 - Mallinkrodt signs a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission; move uranium processing facilities from downtown to St. Louis to Weldon Springs.

Early 1960s - Mallinkrodt hauls some 5,000 truckloads of waste from downtown to abandoned limestone quarry near their new plant.

1966 - Mallinkrodt closes down their uranium enrichment plants and hires Cotter to discard of the waste.

1973 - Cotter illegally dumps radiologically-contaminated soil at West Lake Landfill.

1976 - The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) closes West Lake Landfill.

1982 - Radiation Management Corporation conducts a radiological survey of West Lake that indicates elevated levels of uranium and thorium.

1988 - U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission releases report of West Lake, determining that the site has two contaminated areas with about 150,000 tons of contaminated nuclear waste.

1990 - West Lake Landfill added to EPA's national Superfund Site Priorities List (a list of sites around the US requiring long-term clean-up efforts).

1993 - Army Corps of Engineers conducts several risk assessment studies and determines that if nothing is done to cleanup various nuclear waste dumpsites, the public will be exposed to unacceptable levels of radiation.

2006 - EPA's Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study work completed.

2008 - EPA's Record of Decision completed and released; states that waste is best left at the site and that they will continue to closely monitor the area in case of groundwater contamination.

2010 - Opposition to EPA decision leads to commissioning of Supplemental Feasibility Study (which lays out two additional options for remediation at West Lake)

2011- 1,400 page Supplemental Feasibility Study for West Lake is finalized and made public.

January 2012 - EPA's National Remedy and Review Board has been reviewing the SFS report.

April 2012 - 16 people file class action suit against Mallinckrodt, Inc and other companies involved in production and disposal of nuclear waste, alleging that the mishandling of nuclear waste caused untimely illnesses.

Summer 2012 - EPA returns to West Lake site to conduct groundwater testing and take gamma scan measurements.

October 2012 - Two more people file suit against Mallinckrodt, et al; one is a father whose 23-year old daughter died in 2009 after being diagnosed with malignant pleual effusion and acute respiratory failure.

November 13, 2012 - Missouri Coalition for the Environment holds public meeting and calls on citizens to write EPA, government officials and demand that West Lake be transferred to Army Corps of Engineers.

January 2013 - EPA says they will host a public meeting to discuss findings.


Note: Much of this history was culled from a series that ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called "A Legacy of the Bomb", which ran between February 12-19, 1989.

My Voice Nation Help
2 comments
suetoo
suetoo

My suggestion to the activists is that they take carefully cataloged groundwater samples nearby and have them tested privately.  The meeting isn't until January, and that gives you time.  Also, take multiple samples at each site you catalog, in case they get "lost" after you send them to an independent lab.  

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