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Monday
Dec302013

"Smoldering controversy" at St. Louis area radioactive waste landfill flares up

Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey, long-time anti-nuclear watchdog, including on the West Lake Landfill's radioactive wastesThe Wall Street Journal has reported ("Neighbors Fume at Radioactive Dump: Legacy of Atomic-Era Weapons Work in St. Louis Suburb Stirs Worries About Health, Environment," by John R. Emshwiller, Dec. 29, 2013) on the West Lake Landfill near St. Louis, MO. (In a companion piece, the WSJ reports "Facebook Page Chronicles Accounts of Illnesses Reported by Residents"). The dumpsite contains one of the single largest concentrations of hazardous, radioactive Thorium-230 residues in the entire country, as recently documented by Bob Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Although the radioactive wastes in the West Lake Landfill originated from the nuclear weapons industry, the crisis holds lessons for nuclear power "uranium fuel chain" waste risks, as well.

The West Lake Landfill is an illegal dumping ground for the oldest radioactive wastes of the Atomic Age. The radioactive wastes originated from the Manhattan Project race for the atomic bomb, which culminated in the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. Mallinckrodt Chemical Works of St. Louis processed Belgian Congo uranium ore, with the radioactive wastes eventually dumped at West Lake Landfill.

The West Lake Landfill is located in the Missouri River floodplain, not far upstream from the confluence with the Mississippi River, as well as St. Louis metro region drinking water intakes. It is also immediately adjacent to an underground landfill fire. The Wall Street Journal coverage is the latest installment of major, national media coverage on the crisis.

Recently, Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey (photo, above left), a resident of the St. Louis area and a 40-year anti-nuclear watchdog, wrote to state and local elected officials in the area around West Lake Landfill, as well as fire department officials. She called for action to be taken to protect workers at the West Lake Landfill, as well as firefighters who could face the radioactive hazards if the underground fire intercepts the buried radioactive wastes.

Along the same lines, Kay previously penned a pamphlet, "Your Nuclear Workplace: Know Your Risks, Know Your Rights."