A small group of McCluer North High School graduates discovered many of their friends and fellow graduates were being diagnosed or dying from rare cancers. They began investigating the possibility of a cancer cluster in the communities surrounding North St. Louis County’s Coldwater Creek. It was not until after several months of research and investigation that the group discovered that the creek in their hometown had been contaminated with radioactive materials.
Coldwater Creek: The History
Mallinckrodt Chemical Works was the original processor of Belgian Congo Uranium Ore for the Manhattan Project/Atomic Energy Commission during the nation’s early atomic program. This activity led to contamination of several St. Louis city and county areas with Uranium 235 and radioactive decay daughter isotopes including Radium, Radon, Polonium, Thorium and Thallium.
From 1942-1957 Mallinckrodt processed the ore at the St Louis Downtown Site (SLDS). Radioactive processed byproducts were stored at an adjacent site to the St. Louis Airport Site until 1967, now referred to as SLAPS. SLAPS is located at the headwaters of Coldwater Creek, which drains into the Missouri River near the confluence of the Mississippi River, after traveling through the middle of north St. Louis County. In 1966, the waste at SLAPS was purchased, moved and stored at Latty Avenue. Part of this property later became known as the Hazelwood Interim Storage Site (HISS). The storage site was open air in order to dry the radioactive material prior to shipping. Improper handling and transportation of the waste during this timeframe spread the materials along transportation routes and adjacent vicinity properties, forming the sites known as Vicinity Properties (VP). The original downtown site, HISS, and SLAPS were turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers for cleanup activities, under the government’s Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP).
Uranium 238 waste materials leaked into Coldwater Creek, creating a mode of transport throughout North County for radiation contamination. Coldwater Creek consists of many tributaries and there are substantial underground water tables. During the initial time of storage, North County was primarily farm area. There were two significant population and construction booms in the 1950’s and 1960’s, leading to soil re-grading, disturbance of groundwater and redefinition of tributaries. This activity would have redistributed the radioactive materials and spread groundwater contamination to soil and open air, effectively creating an additional modes of transport through dust inhalation. Residents relying on locally grown vegetation and dairy products could have been exposed through food sources.
The Army Corps of Engineers is still testing or remediating areas along Coldwater Creek. In 1973, material from SLAPS and HISS was dumped illegally in the West Lake Landfill, resulting in 46 acres of contaminated soil. Despite repeated requests from residents and public officials throughout the years, West Lake Landfill nuclear weapons waste remediation has not been turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers or recognized as a FUSRAP site. The illegally dumped nuclear weapons waste sits in an open field, separated from the general public by only a chain link fence. The property is in a flood plain. The area is frequently hit by tornados and the adjacent landfill has a rapidly growing underground fire that threatens the creation of an event that would be similar to a dirty bomb.
Reports of cancer and disease from fellow classmates, neighbors, and childhood friends on the Facebook page was overwhelming and the group created a formal online health survey. To date there are over 2700 documented reports of multi-generational illnesses, including rare cancers, thyroid problems, infertility, auto-immune diseases and genetic mutations in children. The data includes multiple incidents of conjoined twins, and over 30+ appendix cancers (a rare cancer seen 1 in approximately 500,000 people). There are higher than national average levels of leukemia, rare brain tumors, breast, and colon cancers. These cancers are all known to be diseases associated with ionizing radiation exposure according the CDC and EPA informational web pages. A formal report of the survey data is scheduled to be released late this summer.
7 More Nuclear Waste “Hot Spots” Found in St. Louis Suburb
December 22, 2015
Army Corps Finds More Radioactive Soil at Homes and Businesses in North St. Louis County
St. Louis Public Radio
December 7, 2015
Residents in St Louis dying in record numbers from World War II radioactive waste
October 28, 2015
New Reports of Cancers Near Coldwater Creek in North County
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
by Blythe Bernard
January 16, 2014
The Poisoned Children of Coldwater Creek
St. Louis Magazine.com
May 22, 2013
Coldwater Creek Lawsuit Court Document
U.S. District Court, Eastern Division
August 20, 2012
Radioactive Waste in our Groundwater
Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal’s Column
March 26, 2012
Lawsuit Links Illnesses to North St. Louis County Creek
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Blythe Bernhard
February 29, 2012
Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program – North St. Louis County Sites
FUSRAP Update, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers