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Internal discussions and testing showed possibility of contamination

Several mothers in a St. Louis suburb are working to clean up toxic areas in their area. This is a major undertaking to remediate widespread contamination that some government officials have apparently covered up for decades.

“This was St. Louis’ biggest secret. The Manhattan Project was a little-known here, and it’s still a pretty big secret here,” said Karen Nickel, co-founder of Just Moms STL.

Nickell formed the group in 2013 with neighbor Dawn Chapman.

“Over the years, we’ve heard bits and pieces of the story and what we thought was the story,” Nickel said.

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A mother of two spent several years reviewing thousands of documents and found that Missouri’s toxic waste director likely knew the crew had mishandled the chemicals. has become clear.

“Right away, we thought, ‘Oh my God, this is so different than what we expected,'” Chapman said.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) said more details about St. Louis’ Manhattan Project have emerged over time.

“As early as the 1960s, the public was starting to kind of understand it, but it wasn’t until the ’80s and ’90s that we really started to see the full extent of this problem,” Hawley said. Told.

“Just in the last year, we’ve acquired a new cache of documents that show the full scope of government knowledge and what the government knew years ago – 30, 40, 50 years ago. The government poisoned the streams, the landfills were contaminated, etc. They lied about dumping waste and causing environmental and health problems.”

Coldwater Creek in St. Louis, visited by children and families, appears to have been contaminated by toxic chemicals left behind by the Manhattan Project. The creek is currently being sampled for radioactive material by the Army Corps of Engineers. (Army Corps of Engineers/Kay Dray Mallinckrodt Collection)

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Hawley is pushing to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which is set to expire this year. The bill would allow people in St. Louis and other areas who may have gotten sick from chemicals to receive compensation from the government.

“We found out that St. Louis was a uranium processing plant. So was Kentucky. So was Tennessee. The scope of testing in the West was much larger than we knew,” Hawley said. Told.

The documents contained internal memos from the Mallinckrodt Chemical Plant, a company hired by the U.S. government to process chemicals for nuclear weapons. The cache also included testing and sampling from government agencies, as well as warnings that sites exposed to these chemicals may be unsafe.

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“There was evidence, there were facts, and it told the story from start to finish,” Nickel said.

The Mallinckrodt chemical plant in St. Louis was working on processing uranium that would eventually help create the first sustained nuclear chain reaction. After the plant closed, the company worked to dispose of the chemicals. An internal memo from 1949 revealed that workers discussed health and safety concerns with the waste storage site.

“Issue #2 concerns the issue of K-65 drums collapsing at airports,” the memo said. “This is recognized as a serious problem.”

Federal authorities first stored the waste at a location near the St. Louis airport. The scene was near a stream that stretches 24 miles through North St. Louis County. The barrels were left outside, exposed to the elements.

“The government quickly realized how dangerous this waste was,” Chapman said.

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Old photo of a large amount of chemical barrels

In Missouri, barrels of waste were left out in the open after chemical plants associated with the Manhattan Project closed. (Kay Dray Mallinckrodt Collection)

An internal Mallinckrodt memo detailed workers’ concerns that chemicals may have leaked into the creek. ”

“The health risks to workers handling K-65 material, especially broken drums, are far more serious and immediate than the potential for river contamination,” the report said.

“They were so toxic that we were told, ‘Don’t touch them. They’re too dangerous,'” Nickel said.

Rising waters and flooding are an annual concern along Coldwater Creek.

“Of course you wouldn’t put hazardous waste next to a flooded stream,” Chapman said. “They knew it was probably leaking into the creek, but they didn’t know how much.”

Army Corps of Engineers officials said decades of flooding have complicated today’s cleanup efforts.

The backyard flooded with a stream.

Flooding and high water events occur annually along Coldwater Creek in St. Louis, which is potentially contaminated. (Karen Nickel)

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“Wind and rain, as well as flooding, pick up some of these pollutants, and they are carried down the river as sediment, where they are deposited during floods and even during normal flow,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. said Phil Moser, St. Louis Regional Program Manager. “This is all historic contamination from decades ago, which is why it’s so hard to find this contamination today.”

The Army Corps of Engineers has been sampling radioactive materials throughout Coldwater Creek, some of which predate St. Louis’ population boom.

“This was before houses were built, and lo and behold, in the late ’50s and ’60s, houses were built on top of this,” Nickel said.

In the 1960s and 1970s, crews moved the waste to other locations near the airport and left it outside again.

“The controls then were certainly not what they are now, which is why we are in the situation we are in now,” Moser said.

Map highlighting St. Louis Airport, Cold Water Creek, and West Lake Landfill

The crew stored Manhattan Project chemicals at multiple locations around St. Louis. (Fox News)

Advocates and lawmakers, including Hawley, said the cleanup could proceed more quickly.

“For years, people in St. Louis have been told, ‘Don’t worry, there’s no significant radiation dose.’ Or they’ve been told, ‘Hey, we’ve got it all cleaned up.’ In fact, those things were not true,” Hawley said.

“It took years to conduct testing and really understand the scope and scale of the contamination in North County,” Chapman said.

An inspection nearly 50 years ago revealed possible contamination in some parts of the creek. His 1977 report from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee details samples collected at Coldwater Creek. Tests at drains that channel runoff into streams found average radiation levels nearly five times higher than normal.

“I’ve certainly not seen those levels at these sites since I’ve been here,” Moser said.

In the 1970s, workers moved the waste again, this time to the Westlake Landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri.

“Here in the United States, it is impossible to buy a home next to a site where radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project has been sitting for decades,” Chapman said.

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Chadman, Nickel and thousands of others will eventually call the area near the Westlake Landfill home.

“The time to act is now. This should have been done 50 years ago and it hasn’t happened yet. So now is the time to act,” Hawley said.

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