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In the wake of a state health study showing high rates of cancers in north St. Louis County near Coldwater Creek, the St. Louis County Council unanimously endorsed Tuesday night a resolution calling for an expedited clean-up of the creek and expanded studies of the creek’s effects on public health.
Before the vote, members of the Coldwater Creek Community Group — who gave personal examples of disease in their families as well as the general problems of radioactive nuclear weapons waste — urged the council to endorse the resolution.
Carl Chappell of Florissant said that his father, who had worked at Mallinckrodt, died young of cancer after working with nuclear waste and that his own son was battling appendix cancer.
The company refined uranium for 15 years at a downtown site. Tons of the waste were trucked to a couple of sites near the airport and the headwaters of the creek.
Kay Drey, a long-time environmentalist, told the council that it had “a vital role to play toward saving lives and improving the health and safety of today’s and future St. Louis County residents.”
The council “expresses its strongest support” for “more study of health problems in and around Coldwater Creek, including cancer and the entire range of health problems known to be associated with exposure of ionizing radiation,” the resolution reads.
The resolution, initiated by Councilman Sam Page, a physician, was co-sponsored by the entire seven-member council. Councilman Mike O’Mara said he grew up and lived in that “hotspot” and knew many area incidences of canceramong neighbors and people in his district.
The resolution also requests that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies partner with Missouri departments to investigate.
“It’s a momentous day,” Jenell Wright, a leader of the Coldwater Creek Group, said afterward. “It has been an issue for decades and we finally have the council validating our concerns and saying ‘we want it fixed.’”
The group also backs a county health department’s initiative to work with state, federal and academic partners to further evaluate reported cancers and other health issues. Last month, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released a study finding higher-than-expected rates of leukemia and other cancers near Coldwater Creek.
Margaret Gillerman is a reporter for the Post-Dispatch.
Updated 10/17/14: Republic Services has confirmed that it agreed on Thursday, in writing, to comply with all of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ requirements ― although the company remains committed to its position that the additional measures are not needed.
Our original story:
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources says the underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill is spreading and that the landfill’s owner, Republic Services, needs to do more to stop it.
Republic says all its data ― including subsurface temperatures, carbon monoxide levels and surface settlement ― indicate that the chemical reaction is contained and moving south, away from the radioactive waste at the adjacent West Lake Landfill.
“Of all the sites that I have visited . . . this is by far the worst.” — Lois Gibbs on West Lake landfill in STL”
Lois Gibbs, founder of the Center for Health and Environmental Justice (CHEJ) and nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, came to St. Louis County to address Community about a smoldering fire has been and still is slowly moving toward radioactive wastes which were illegally dumped at the adjacent West Lake Landfill over 40 years ago.
Quote by Lois to CNN:
“West Lake Landfill is this generation’s Love Canal. In Love Canal, we were told that the thousands of tons of toxic chemicals were not causing any of our health problems,” Gibbs said. “Does this sound familiar?
In Love Canal we were told that putting a covering over the top of dump would protect us. Does this sound familiar?
When I see corporations like Republic downplaying risks to residents in order to save themselves some money and some trouble, I see history repeating itself. You and your allies in this room will have to keep organizing and agitating until you and your families have been moved out of harm’s way.”
Sponsoring organizations include Just Mom’s STL, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, MO State Rep. Bill Otto, and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
Lois Gibbs came to St. Louis County, Missouri to help Just Mom’s STL – a Non-Profit Grassroots Organization who have been working over 2 years to bring awareness to the Community and to help them understand what they can do to keep the Communities on both sides of the Missouri River near the West Lake Complex safe from not only the underground Landfill fire with its Toxic non-radioactive fumes, but on what needs to be done to keep that fire from the Nuclear Weapons waste located in an adjacent landfill just 900 feet away.
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Click here to listen to the Interview with Lois Gibbs by Veronique LaCapra - St. Louis Public Radio
Environmental activist Lois Gibbs will be in St. Louis this weekend for a “teach-in” to address problems at the adjoining Bridgeton and West Lake landfills, located in Bridgeton a few miles from Lambert Airport.
The West Lake Landfill contains two known areas of World War II-era uranium processing residues, illegally dumped there in 1973. In 2010, an underground fire was reported at the south quarry of the Bridgeton Landfill. Not a fire in the traditional sense, it is a chemical reaction that produces temperatures higher than 170 degrees. At Bridgeton, temperatures have reached 300 degrees.
“If that fire reaches the radioactive waste, the smoke that comes out of that fire will be radioactive and it will increase the risks, which are already extraordinarily high, to the community that lives around there,” Gibbs said. “It’s totally insane. I don’t understand why they let it go for so long, and I don’t understand why they’re not doing something to protect the people today from both the radioactive contaminants as well as the burning fire landfill site.”
Gibbs became involved in environmental causes in the spring of 1978 when she discovered her son was attending a school built on top of a toxic waste dump in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Three years later, she founded the Center for Health, Environment and Justice; Gibbs is now the organization’s executive director.