The First Secret City

We’re pleased to announce that The First Secret City, the documentary that first revealed the radioactive legacy of the Manhattan Project on the St. Louis region, is available on Amazon, Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Demand, and can also be purchased online in DVD format. Advance DVD orders can be made here:

The past meets the present as a group of seemingly unrelated people discover alarming connections in their neighborhoods, revealing an unfolding environmental disaster in Coldwater Creek and West Lake Landfill  Venice, Illinois and other locations. The film is essential for viewers interested in environmental issues, the history of World War II, and how decisions made decades ago continue to impact citizens today.

Before the creation of the secret cities of Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford, the Manhattan Project hired a St. Louis chemical company to process mountains of raw uranium ore for the bomb beginning in 1942. Initially, residents of the then-8th largest city in the United States were kept in the dark about the project, including the workers themselves. For the next 20 years, the classified work continued under the Atomic Energy Commission, while the waste piles grew in size and number. The resulting negligence contaminated numerous locations some of which have not been cleaned up 70 years after the end of World War II.

Told through the eyes of an overexposed worker, the story expands through a series of interviews that careen down a toxic pathway from an impoverished African-American neighborhood in nearby Illinois to a suburban ballfield in St. Louis County, Missouri eventually leading to a fiery terminus at a smoldering, radioactively-contaminated landfill.  

This groundbreaking film by Alison Carrick and C.D. Stelzer lays bare the long-ignored issue, painting a clear and accurate portrayal of the problem, which unfortunately is still being mischaracterized and falsely presented by some.

“Because we’re from here (St. Louis), I think we have a better understanding of the area in general, the history and politics of the area,” says Stelzer, who began reporting on the issue in 1991 for the Riverfront Times, the city’s alternative weekly newspaper.

The documentary debuted at the 2015 St. Louis International Film Festival and won the 2016 John Michaels Award at Southern Illinois University’s  Big Muddy Film Festival. The Michaels Award recognizes films that advance awareness of critical social justice and environmental issues.

Years in the making, The First Secret City uncovers a forgotten history and its continuing impact on a sprawling metropolitan community in the 21st Century, exposing past wrongdoing and documenting renewed struggles to confront the issue.

View the trailer.  St. Louis magazine review

St. Louis Post-Dispatch review



26 thoughts on “The First Secret City

  1. Is there any way this will be available to rent for screening in the San Francisco Bay Area? I grew up in Florissant and only recently learned of the contamination across many areas around the city and county. Many members of my family have had cancer including myself; thank you for bringing this information to light.


  2. Is there a way I could get a copy of your film The First Secret City to show at a class I am organizing for this fall for the Life Long Learning Institute at Washington University? Life Long Learning offers a variety of classes taught by our members, who are senior adults. If you would like to know more, this is a link to our web site:
    I am hoping to facilitate a class this fall showing and discussing a series of documentary films that have been previously shown at the St. Louis International Film Festival. Your film seems particularly interesting since it is about St. Louis and since another toxic substance (lead) has been so much in the news lately.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Marge Williams


  3. At the hundreds if not more of soil, water and air taken at each superfund site, why is there no actual map? There are hundreds more photos taken at each and every superfund site than there are individuals driving around in vehicles to film Google Maps. There are certainly topographical maps of each site, which were used by the reporting agencies to delineate the actual physical extent of each site. There are countless news stories about sites, but no comprehensive site maps. Only charts and graphics … not maps. A single spot zeroes in on a general geographic location and does not show the perimeter or concentrations of hazardous materials.


  4. Will you offer the film via YouTube or another streaming service for those of us wishing to see your film but living outside the St. Louis area?


  5. -“Groundwater URANIUM & Increased Incidence of CANCERS” by DRS. Sara Wagner, Bottai, Porter, Puett, Aldrich, Hebert et al;
    -DOCKET No. SSX-L-266-13 for WATER Whistleblower Case in NJ;
    -EPA Docket No. CWA-309(a)-11-002 Violations and Orders for Compliance of CEMEX;
    -“NGO Files SEC Complaints against CEMEX (aka Southdown, Limecrest Quarry, Charlotte URANIUM Mines)” by GEC;


  6. I grew up in the area and just learned of the radiation waste. I would like to see your movie, but none of the links work. I then did a search of your movie on the website it directed to after i got the error, and nothing came up. I truly would like to see it.


  7. I will definitely be watching this as i grew up off of Latty. There is a group on Facebook for any of you interested called coldwater creek- just the facts.


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