The story begins with the Manhattan Project, a secret U.S. military project created in 1942 to produce the first nuclear weapon. Mallinckrodt Chemical Works was contracted to purify uranium for use in the atom bomb. This refining process unfortunately generated thousands of barrels of toxic waste.
When Mallinckrodt ran out of space in their St. Louis location (SLDS) to store the waste, they obtained a 22-acre site to store the waste as it still had value. This site, the St. Louis Airport Storage Site (SLAPSS), was used to store waste from 1946 until the mid 1960’s.
These barrels and piles were left unattended for decades. The barrels eventually rusted and they along with the the toxic waste piles spilled out into neighboring air, soil, and water, most notably Coldwater Creek which winds through North County.
In the mid 1960’s the waste was put up for bid and ended up with Cotter Corporation at the St. Louis Hazelwood Interim Storage Site (HISS) on Latty Avenue. There they dried the waste to ship to Cotter in Colorado.
In 1973, in an effort to clean up the Latty Avenue site, B&K Construction mixed an estimated 8,000 tons of Leached Barium Sulfate with 48,000 tons of toxic dirt in which the top 12 to 18 inches of topsoil was removed and transported for 3 months (July-Oct 1973) from the Latty Avenue site. It was then dumped illegally in the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton by saying it was clean fill dirt.
It remained there quietly until 2010 when a fire began in the South Quarry of the Bridgeton Landfill. In 2012, odors from the burning of waste escaped off the landfill which alerted others that something was wrong at this landfill. In 2012, Just Moms STL founders became alarmed by the intense odor emitted from the West Lake Landfill and called authorities. That is when they found out in discussions with the authorities about not only the toxic odors emitting from the landfill but that 2 sections had radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project; soon came the revelation that the dump housed toxic waste in an unprotected site residing in a floodplain near the Missouri River.
There is currently a subsurface smoldering fire in the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill approximately 1000 feet away from the radioactive waste. The EPA and other agencies have yet to come up with a solution to ward off a potential nuclear disaster. St. Louis County has gone as far as preparing a West Lake Landfill Shelter in Place/Evacuation Plan in 2014 that was accidentally leaked to a news station. No one knows exactly what will take place if the fire were to reach the nuclear waste.