St. Louis Post-Dispatch
by Jack Suntrup
JEFFERSON CITY • Meagan Beckermann begged a Senate panel Tuesday approve a bill that would let the state buy her home.
She lives in Bridgeton, near the West Lake Landfill. And not much farther away is Coldwater Creek, which is contaminated by nuclear waste. Residents have long complained about rare cancers and other sicknesses prevalent there. She told the committee that since moving into a house near the West Lake Landfill in 2010, her son Trevor, 6, has been diagnosed with a rare form of alopecia, asthma, extreme allergies and tonsils “so inflamed and irritated that they will be removed next week.” She blamed everything on where her house is.
Beckermann said she’s read enough studies about the problems. She wants out.
“We have the studies, we have the maps, we have the research,” Beckermann said. “Please stop studying us, and just save us. Please, we’re desperate.”
She and others spoke in favor of a bill sponsored by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, that would allow homeowners within a three-mile radius of the West Lake Landfill, the Bridgeton Landfill or Coldwater Creek to apply to have their property purchased by the state at fair market value.
Those who spoke in favor of the bill said that residents might not have bought homes there had they known about the nuclear waste, which dates back to the early days of the Cold War when St. Louis was a processing hub for uranium.
“These people did not move in here with a warning that this is what they were buying,” said Ed Smith, safe energy director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “They moved in there with the thought that this was going to be the American dream and it’s turned out to be an American nightmare.”
No one spoke against Chappelle-Nadal’s bill, though there was some discussion about its estimated cost. Chappelle-Nadal said that buying homes within three miles of Coldwater Creek is a starting point, subject to negotiation.
On one extreme, if the state bought the more than 63,000 homes within three miles of Coldwater Creek, it would cost the state an estimated $7 billion.
On the other extreme, if all of the 91 homeowners within a mile of the West Lake Landfill wanted a buyout, it would cost the state about $11 million.
Chappelle-Nadal said federal resources could be made available if a state of emergency were declared.
Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, compared buying out the 91 homes near the West Lake Landfill to a buyout program during Lambert Airport’s expansion.
“We’ve done something much larger than this before — collectively, not just state government,” he said. “We’ve done something much larger than this for a tarmac.”
Beckermann fought through tears as she showed the committee pictures of her son and her friends affected, and then posed a question to the committee.
“Why wouldn’t you pass this bill?” she said. “And your reason better not be money or politics, because that is not more important than our lives.”
Chappelle-Nadal said that the issue transcends racial divisions evident in the aftermath of unrest in Ferguson.
“Bridgeton and Coldwater Creek are bringing us together,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re black, it doesn’t matter if you’re white, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich, it doesn’t matter if you’re poor. People are dying. Death is death.”
Chappelle-Nadal’s bill is Senate Bill 600.