October 23, 1979: Kay Drey and Byron Clemons lining up to oppose plans to move 20,000 tons of radioactive waste from Latty Avenue in Hazelwood to the airport site.
October 23, 1979: Kay Drey and Byron Clemons lining up to oppose plans to move 20,000 tons of radioactive waste from Latty Avenue in Hazelwood to the airport site.
Government radiation test results of Coldwater Creek are missing and presumed destroyed, says the chief of the St. Louis County Health Department. Meanwhile, independent testing has forced regulators to take a second look at a contaminated site they failed to cleanup next to Coldwater Creek in the past.
Records compiled as a part of a multi-agency investigation of potential radioactive contamination of Coldwater Creek during the 1980s are presumed to have been destroyed as a part of an “archival cleanup,” says Faisal Khan, the Director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.
The revelation came in response to a Missouri Sunshine Law request filed in October 2016. In his reply, Khan wrote: “Having searched our archives, we have not found any records are documents pertaining to any Cold Water [sic] Creek testing involving the then St. Louis County Department of Health. Any records are likely to have been destroyed in the course of scheduled archival cleanup.”
The testing is mentioned in a 1986 letter from then-St. Louis City Health Commissioner William B. Hope to St. Louis Alderwoman Mary Ross (D-5th Ward). In his letter, the city health official sought to alleviate the elected official’s concerns. Hope stated that periodic testing of the city’s water supply failed to find any “significant detectable levels of radioactive elements.” The letter does not explain what amounts of radiation would be considered “significant.”
The letter makes clear the testing was conducted secretly over an extended period of time. “For years, I have quietly had the intake water supply monitored at various intervals for any evidence of radioactive contamination,” wrote Hope. He added that he would continue to have the city’s water supply monitored for the “indefinite future.”
The city health commissioner attempted to further mollify the alderwoman by informing her that the city was conducting a joint monitoring program of Coldwater Creek with the St. Louis County Health Department.
“In addition, there is an ongoing monitoring of Coldwater Creek seepage being jointly conducted by the St. Louis County Health Department and the City’s Health Division,” wrote Hope.
Word that the county’s records have disappeared follows in the wake of an independent laboratory analysis last year that indicates radioactive contaminants may possibly still be seeping into Coldwater Creek near the Hazelwood Interim Storage Site (HISS) in Hazelwood.
The EPA was informed by email of the independent findings in Feburary 2016.
In the message, nuclear engineer Marco Kaltofen alerts the EPA — which has authority over Superfund sites — to the location and exact levels of contamination, which far exceed the agency’s permissible amounts.
“The sample was collected in the rail spur area adjacent to Coldwater Creek at Latty Avenue in Hazelwood, Mo,” Kaltofen wrote. “As you can see from the attachment prepared by the laboratory, 230-Th [thorium] activity is 10,923 pCi/g. Total Uranium activity in this sample is 854 pCi/g, with an enrichment level for 235-U [uranium] of 4.1 %, which is about average for civilian grade nuclear fuel materials. The total sample activity is 320 KBq/kg (320,500 Bq/kg). These numbers are very significantly elevated above all pertinent environmental standards.”
The email was also sent to officials at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Kaltofen is a member of a trio of experts that published a scientific paper in late 2015 on radioactive contamination in St. Louis County that is leftover from the Manhattan Project and Cold War eras. The other two authors of the report are Robert Alvarez and Lucas Hixson. Their research was funded by environmentalist Kay Drey and appeared in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity.
The sampling results submitted to the EPA by Kaltofen is part of a continuing independent investigation of St. Louis area contamination by the group.
The site in question, known as VP-40A, had previously been tested by The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is mentioned in its 2005 Record of Decision. The contamination is located on railroad property that was deemed by the Corps to be “inaccessible,” and therefore exempted from the cleanup — which has been shutdown and declared completed.
In late October, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which shares responsibility with the Corps, retested the location and said that the levels of contamination at the site match the historic record established by the Corps’ earlier testing.
The details of the testing have been been requested from MDNR by The First Secret City, and the Corps has also been asked why the site was exempted from the original cleanup of the area, which is referred to as the Hazelwood Interim Storage Site.
Five years after B&K Construction illegally dumped Cotter Corp.’s radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill, the two companies continued doing dirty business with each other.
In July 1978, Cotter Corp., the owner of the radioactively-contaminated site on Latty Avenue, solicited a bid from B&K Construction to “decontaminate” 14.5 acres at the location in Hazelwood. B&K proposed doing the job for more than $492,000, according to a company record made public today by the Environmental Archives.
Five years earlier, in 1973, B&K had dumped radioactive waste belonging to Cotter at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. The EPA Superfund site has yet to be cleaned up.
Cotter’s proposal was broken into two parts. B&K offered to remediate the north end of the 3.5-acre Jarboe Property at 9200 Latty Avenue for $139,900, and bid more than $355,900 to clean up 11 acres at Cotter’s property next door.
The proposal called for hauling the radioactive waste materials back to the 22-acre airport site, where they had originally been stored years earlier.
An investigation by the Atomic Energy Commission discovered the illegal dumping at West Lake in 1974. Though the AEC found violations of its regulations had occurred, neither company was held accountable for its actions.
A 1981 report prepared for the Nuclear Regulatory Agency raises more questions about the origins of the radioactive waste at the controversial West Lake Landfill Superfund site, including who dumped it and when.
No doubt exists that B&K Construction Co. hauled more than 40,000 tons of radioactive material from Cotter Corp.’s Latty Avenue storage site in Hazelwood, Mo. and illegally dumped it at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo. between July and October of 1973.
But a 1981 government report obtained by the Environmental Archives now suggests some of the nuclear weapons waste at the landfill was quietly disposed of years earlier. Forty-five years later it remains a mystery where the latter nuke waste originated or who dumped it
The report, released under the Freedom of Information Act, is based on a 1980 site investigation by the Radiation Management Corp., a Nuclear Regulatory Commission contractor. The report states that the then-landfill superintendent recalled with certainty that the Latty Avenue waste was disposed on approximately two acres in the southern portion of the landfill.
Vernon Fehr, the superintendent who had first-hand knowledge of the landfill operations for the time periods in question, also said with certainty that none of the radioactive materials from Latty Avenue were dumped in the other contaminated part of the landfill, which is comprised of approximately 8 acres in the northeast section.
The NRC report states, “the second area is at least 10 years old (in 1981), and no one had any idea what radioactive material might be present there.” If that timeline is correct, it means large volumes of radioactive waste were secretly dumped at the landfill at least two years prior to B&K arriving on the scene.
Radiation Management based its findings on both the landfill manager’s testimony and a 1978 aerial survey of the landfill by EG&G engineering firm. The aerial survey discovered radioactive contamination above background on 2.6 acres acres in the southern part of the landfill and also present on 8 acres in the northeast portion of the site.
Current attention has been directed mainly at area of the landfill nearest the underground fire, which is burning at the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill.
The eight acres in the northeast sector of the site include a toxic stew of chemical waste in addition to the radioactive materials. The mixed contaminants are known to be migrating off site and leaking into the aquifer. The landfill is in the flood plain, approximately 1.5 miles away from the Missouri River.
The exact nature of the all radioactively-contaminated materials and their precise locations remains uncertain because the EPA has failed to fully characterize the site since taking over the clean up in 1990. In short, despite untold numbers of various tests and surveys over the years, a comprehensive grid test of the entire 200-acre Superfund site has never been conducted.
When cyclists spin their wheels this weekend to commemorate the illegal dumping of radioactive waste at West Lake Landfill, they’ll be riding over a very hot roadbed.
The Latty Avenue roadbed in Hazelwood, Mo. is constructed of highly radioactive nuclear weapons waste, according to an overlooked Department of Energy document uncovered this week by the Environmental Archives.
Just hot is it under Latty?
In 1987, Aerospace Corp., a DOE contractor, reported the levels of radiation in one hot spot under Latty Avenue were literally off the charts.
“Activities in the “hot spot” sample were so high that quantitative determinations using initial analytical techniques were not possible, and further analyses (sic) will be required,” according to the then-DOE contractor.
The online database released the revelation along with a cache of other records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The release of the document coincidentally corresponds with a planned ride by bicyclists this Saturday to draw attention to St. Louis’ longstanding radioactive waste problem.
Tons of radioactively-contaminated materials at the Latty Avenue site were transported and illegally dumped at the West Lake Landfill in 1973 over a three-month period.
More than four decades later, the waste is still there, which has led in recent years to a fight by community members to get the EPA to relinguish control of the site to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps has cleaned up the former storage area on Latty Avenue and other sites in the St. Louis area as a part of the Formerly Utilized Site Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP).
But the haul route contamination, for the most part, has not been addressed because it allegedly falls below the current clean-up standards set by the Corps. Radioactive contamination that lies under the pavement is now deemed as safe.
In 1987, it was a different story, however, according to the DOE report made public by the Environmental Archive. At that time, the Aerospace Corp., a DOE contractor, expressed concerns over the high levels of Thorium 230 used to construct the Latty Avenue roadbed.
The report concludes that the radioactive materials used to build the road in the 1960s or 1970s most likely came from processing waste generated by the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works of St. Louis under contracts with the top secret Manhattan Project and later the Atomic Energy Commission. Analysis revealed that the high levels of Thorium 230 were evidence that the radioactive contamination was a byproduct of Congolese pitchblende, which is known to be the hottest uranium ore on the planet.
The pitchblende refined by Mallinckrodt was used to build the first atomic bombs.
St. Louisans talked back to the Department of Energy about nuclear waste last Thursday. But were the feds really listening?
by Richard Byrne Jr.
The Riverfront Times, Dec. 12, 1990
The Department of Energy came to praise nuclear waste and to bury it.
Well, OK. It’s already buried there. Close to 2.5 million cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste, scattered at three main sites in North St. Louis City and County.
It’s no news that the waste is here, and it was hardly a shock that 200 angry St. Louisans showed up Thursday at a ballroom in the Clayton Holiday Inn to tell the feds they didn’t want the stuff. What’s eye-opening is the leisurely pace at which the DOE wants to clean it up.
The DOE greeted suggestions that the United States stop producing nuclear waste and start cleaning it up with polite nods. After all, as DOE Deputy Assistant Director of Environmental Restoration John Baublitz stressed, the purpose of the hearing was to gather testimony on national strategies for cleaning up waste.
The atmosphere of the hearing was geared to minimize possible conflict. There was no give-and-take between the feds and those who testified. No arguments. Few, if any, tirades.
To further everyone’s “knowledge” of nuclear issues, a booth outside the ballroom stressed the benefits of nuclear material. There were pictures of astronauts. There were two cartons of strawberries — one zapped, one not zapped. (Which do you think looked better?) There were pictures of industrial and medical uses of radiation.
And then there was the “Radiation Quiz that also had a place on the booth.
One question was” Who receives more radiation exposure in a day? Underneath there were pictures of a nuclear worker and a skier.
Another question read: Which would you rather have drive past your home? This time there were a nuclear materials truck and a fuel truck.
There was even a “true or false” question: Radioactive materials have the best safety record of all hazardous materials shipped in the last 40 years.
If you haven’t guessed already, the answers are the skier, the nuke truck and “true.”
The questions, of course, are skewed. No one skis everyday, and radiation from the sun doesn’t seep into the water table. It isn’t often that petroleum trucks whiz by our homes. And 40 years isn’t that long a track record for the shipment of low-level nuclear waste.
Local activist Kay Drey called the quiz an outrage.
“They want to belittle low-level waste,” Drey says. “Low level waste is a term created by a genius on Madison Avenue. Some low-level waste can only be handled by remote control. To compare it to garbage is absurd. Volume is not the same as hazard.”
But there are people in the St. Louis area who live near and breathe the radioactive stuff. A generation of children in Berkeley played softball on a contaminated site. People like Gilda Evans, who brought her child — stricken with leukemia — to the microphone to testify with her.
“I live in cancer alley,” says Evans, who lives a few blocks from two sites. “How long are any of us going to be here with that stuff?”
Mel Carnahan was emphatic in stressing that hazard in our locality.
“No other metropolitan area in the nation has to contend with a radioactive-waste problem as potentially threatening as the one facing St. Louis,” the lieutenant governor said.
“2.5 million cubic yards of radioactive waste are stored by the United States Department of Energy (USDOE) in the St. Louis area. This is unacceptable in such a high population density.”
You might recognize some of the people who testified: Carnahan, County Executive-elect Buzz Westfall, Ald. Mary Ross (D-5), County Councilman John Shear (D-1). But there were a lot of people you wouldn’t recognize — mothers, students, teachers, businessmen.
Almost all of them had the same thing to say:
Don’t make any more waste. Get the waste that’s here in St. Louis cleaned up.
We’ve had nuclear waste in St. Louis since there was nuclear waste to have.
Back in the early 1940s, when the brilliant minds that came up with America’s atomic weapons program — the Manhattan Project — wanted to process the uranium and thorium needed for the bomb, they came to Mallinckrodt Chemical Works right here in St. Louis. In fact, the first nuclear waste for the Atomic Age was generated in the plant at Broadway and Destrahan.
In 1946, the War Department took over 21.7 acres of land near Lambert Airport through condemnation proceedings, and directed Mallinckrodt to store the hazardous byproducts of processed uranium and thorium there. Twenty years later, some of the waste was transported to a site on Latty Avenue in Hazelwood. Then in 1973, the airport site was deeded (through a quit claim deed) back to the city, after undergoing remediation that included a foot of clean dirt being poured on top of the wastes. The city was to use it as a police-training center.
Five years later, the Department of Energy sent out a news release saying that 26 sites — including the airport site and the Mallinckrodt site — required some form of remedial action.
Both were placed under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) in 1983 to be cleaned up.
Eight years later, it’s still sitting there. And it’s growing.
“In 1977, there was 50,000 cubic yards on contamination at Mallinckrodt,” says Drey, the most knowledgeable and passionate opponent of turning St. Louis into a dumping ground for radioactive waste. “In 1990, the latest estimates say 288,000 cubic yards of contamination, and that’s not including the buildings.”
The fight to get the sites cleaned up has lurched forward and back over the last eight years. The city’s Board of Aldermen voted unanimously in 1988 to ask the DOE to find a different place for the wastes. The Environmental Protection Agency placed the sites on Superfund, with the power to charge the owners of the land for cleanup costs. The Board of Aldermen then narrowly voted in January with the strong support of Mayor Schoemehl to donate 82 acres of land near Lambert to the DOE in exchange for indemnification against the costs of cleaning up the airport site. This would in effect, give the DOE carte blanche to “remediate on-site.” — in other words, to turn the place into a permanent storage site for the wastes with a practically eternal half-life.
Legislation introduced last year by Rep. Jack Buechner to get the wastes moved out of an urban area died in committee, and the EPA and DOE have entered into a Federal Facility Agreement that may or may not result in an on-site remediation of the wastes at Mallinckrodt, Latty Avenue and the airport site. A decision is not expected on that until 1994 at the earliest.
If a decision is handed down on the disposal of the radioactive waste at these sites in 1994, it will mean that 16 years will have elapsed since the feds first acknowledged the problem.
The 13 years that have elapsed so far have made a number of folks hopping mad, and they didn’t waste the opportunity to tell the DOE last Thursday night.
The hearing was not on St. Louis’ waste specifically, but on a DOE proposal to clean up contaminated sites in a five-year period. The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (or PEIS) was up for one of its two public-comment sessions, but St. Louisans were more interested in specific and immediate solutions. And as three representatives of the federal agency sat at a folding table, members of the crowd stepped up to the microphone and let the DOE in on some of the solutions they had in mind.
“The federal government is responsible for bringing this waste to St. Louis,” said Ald. Mary Ross. “They’re the only party technically and financially capable of cleaning them up.”
Ross also mentioned the strong votes against the permanent storage of radioactive wastes in the November referendums: 85 percent of the city’s voters expressed their wish that the radioactive wastes scattered throughout the northern part of the metropolitan area be taken elsewhere.
“The ballot spoke strongly,” Ross insisted. “The DOE is a powerful organization. You can encourage our congressmen not only to remove these wastes, but to appropriate the funds to do it.”
Bill Ramsey of the American Friends Service Committee stressed how the citizens had been kept in the dark about the nuclear policy of the United States.
“The U.S. government never consulted its citizens,” Ramsey said. “We need public discussion and public debate.” Later in his statement, Ramsey urged the DOE to “take the money we’re saving on weapons and use that money to clean up these communities.
Drey spoke of the nation’s energy policy and the clean-up process as “the emperor’s new clothes.”
“We still don’t know how to neutralize these wastes,” Drey said, urging the government to celebrate the first half-century of the Nuclear Age — due to arrive in 1992 — with a moratorium on the production of nuclear arms and waste.
Though there is a strong “not in my backyard” strain to the anti-waste sentiment that the DOE heard last Thursday, Drey prefers to think of it as a “not anybody’s backyard” movement.
“It’s not impossible to get it cleaned up,” Drey says, citing the government’s rapid cleanup of low-level waste near Salt Lake City. “We cannot leave it where it is.”
St. Louis Shares its nuclear waste — but not a lawsuit — with a Colorado town
by Richard Byrne Jr.
The Riverfront Times, July 24, 1991
Canon City, Colo., and St. Louis have a lot in common. A lot of radioactive waste, that is.
For the most part, it’s the same waste. Much of Canon City’s waste came from materials piled up in St. Louis during the 1940s and 1950s.
Like St. Louis’ nuclear waste, Canon City’s waste was moved to its current resting place a true estimate of the dangers to the public.
Like St. Louis’ nuclear waste, it’s creating fear — and perhaps illness — in those unfortunate enough to live near the Cotter Mill processing plant in Canon City.
Unlike St. Louis’ reaction to the waste, the folks in Canon City recently filed a class action suit.
It’s a suit that makes some startling allegations:
*Radioactive waste was carelessly shipped and spilled on the journey from St. Louis to Canon City. One carload of radioactive material was, the suit claims, “lost.”
*Traces of the waste from the uranium-processing plant near Canon City have been found in Arkansas River.
*The company that runs the plant — Cotter Corporation — has a long history of failing to meet state guidelines for the processing and storage of radioactive materials.
Cotter also had a hand in St. Louis’ radioactive contamination as well, when unbeknownst to regulators, it abandoned 8,700 tons of radioactive materials too weak to be reprocessed in the West Lake Landfill in St. Louis County at a depth of only three feet.
Can we learn something from the folks in Canon City?
In the past few years, St. Louisans have become acquainted with their nuclear waste. It’s about time, too. For years, St. Louis’ role in the dawning of the nuclear age and the risks associated with it were either underestimated, glossed over or, worse yet, kept secret.
But even now, as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) circulates its draft cleanup plans for the downtown Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, and as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues a report calling the St. Louis Airport site (SLAPS) and Latty Avenue sites a “potential public health concern,” St. Louisans aren’t moving to gain significant input into the cleanup plans.
The residents of Canon City have taken their battle to court and sued the processors (Cotter Corporation and its parent company Commonwealth Edison) who brought the St. Louis
Airport Cakes” to their town and the two railroad companies (Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and Santa Fe Pacific) who shipped it there.
the plaintiffs recently filed their fourth amended complaint in federal district court in Colorado.
“What we’re trying to do here is to get these companies to step forward and take care of their responsibilities,” says Lynn Boughton, a Canon City resident and one of the leading parties in the lawsuit.
The suit, which seeks a half-billion dollars in damages, charges the companies with , among other things, “negligence,” “willful and wanton conduct,” and “outrageous conduct.” The suit cites health risks to area residents, a precipitous drop in property values and the inaction of the defendants, even to this day, to take measures to improve the situation.
“No cleanup’s been undertaken yet,” Boughton says angrily. “Even after our suit’s brought all this to light. The only thing that’s happened is that (Cotter) has fenced the area.”
Cotter Corporation did not respond to RFT calls, but the lawsuit says that in a deposition conducted in February of this year, Cotter President (and Commonwealth Vice President) George Rifakes denied that there are carcinogenic materials at Cotter Mill.
The history of Canon City’s waste is inextricably tangled with St. Louis’ nuclear history — a history as long as the nuclear age itself.
In fact, the radioactive material that ended up in Canon city also resides at all four of St. Louis’ waste sites. The was was originally generated by the processing of uranium ores at the downtown Mallinckrodt plant from 1946 to 1956, and was stored at SLAPS for another 10 years.
In 1966 the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) the precursor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), sold the residues to Continental Mining and Milling Corporation for $126,000.
Continental moved the materials to their site at 9200 Latty Ave. in Hazelwood. It was during this move that the haul routes along which the waste was moved were contaminated as well.
“The trucks that moved it weren’t covered or wetted,” says DOE spokeperson David Adler. “This move is what caused the haul-route contamination.
The stuff that Continental moved to Latty Avenue was residue from some of the highest-grade uranium available in the early 1940s — imported to the United States from the Belgian Congo.
“These materials were pretty hot stuff,” says local activist Kay Drey. It’s all the stuff that we still have out there. “
Continental went bankrupt a few years later, and that’s where Cotter stepped in, buying the residues, or raffinates, in order to dry them and ship them to its plant in Colorado to extract the remaining uranium. Cotter shipped these residues by rail to Canon City between 1970 and 1973.
According to the lawsuit, Cotter’s shipping [of the waste] was a disaster. Two of the railroad sites used to unload the raffinates are contaminated with hazardous radioactive waste. The lawsuit claims that is documentation of spillage of materials along the railroad tracks and that one “entire carload of uranium is unaccounted for.”
The suit also claims that public access to these sites was never restricted and that placards warning of radioactive material were never placed on the site.
If you think that’s bad, however, it’s nothing compared to what the lawsuit claims happened at Cotter Mill itself. The lawsuit claims that Cotter didn’t have a license to process the raffinates they shipped to Colorado and that two-thirds of the material was processed before Cotter notified the state. The suit also claims that some of the raffinates brought to Colorado were never processed and sit on the grounds, without cover and exposed to the elements. (Much of the St. Louis waste is covered with a tarpaulin, which has occasionally blown off.
The raffinates that were processed, the suit claims, have seeped into the groundwater, making their way to the nearby Arkansas River.
`Boughton, a chemist at Cotter until 1979, says that the company didn’t even tell its employees about the danger.
“No one told us what the isotopic content of this material was,” Boughton says. “We had processed a lot of the material when it came back to us through a lab that was following the material.”
What the material was full of, the suit claims, is thorium-230 and protactinium-231. Both are highly dangerous wastes, with measurable concentrations also present in the St. Louis’ piles. Boughton was later diagnosed as having lymphoma cancer — a cancer associated with thorium-230.
The lawsuit also lists a long series of citations of Cotter Mill — by the AEC and the state of Colorado — for non-compliance with license regulations, citiations dating back to 1959.
St. Louisans can feel bad for the residents of Canon City. they can even regret that it’s waste form the St. Louis area that has wreaked such havoc on their lives and property. But what relevance does Canon City case have for St. Louisans?
First, of course, is Cotter’s illegal dumping of 8,700 tons of radioactive waste at West Lake Landfill, near Earth City. A History of the St. Louis Airport Uranium Residues, prepared by Washington, D.C.’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), claims that Cotter dumped the waste “without the knowledge or approval…”
The IEER report also claims that the NRC has urged Cotter to “apply promptly for a license authorizing remediation of the radioactive waste in the West Lake Landfill.” The reports also says that Cotter has not yet taken any remeidal action.
But lawyers and activists insist that it’s not just the waste here in St. Louis that should turn local residents eyes to the Colorado lawsuit.
Louise Roselle, a Cincinnati lawyers who is aiding in the Colorado lawsuit, claims that the Colorado suit “is part of a growing amount of litigation in this country by residents around hazardous facilities.”
Kay Drey says that the Colorado suit is also interesting because of the research that’s being done on the materials that are contaminating Canon City.
“That’s basically the same stuff we have here,” Drey says. It’s just more splattered here — at a couple different sites.”
It’s the splattering effect in St. Louis that makes these sites more difficult to characterize and to remediate. The DOE is in the middle of the process of remediating a number of St. Louis sites — particularly SLAPS, Latty Avenue, and Mallinckrodt. But a record of decision —the DOE and Environmental Protection Agency’s official decision on what to do with St. Louis’ waste — is not due until 1994.
Drey says that St. Louisans need to keep the pressure on and take an interest in their nuclear waste.
“We need to let our leaders know that we want this stuff out of here,” Drey says. “What’s interesting about this lawsuit is that (Canon City) is looking into what it casn do with its waste.”
Much of the radioactive waste that remains here is an unwanted by product of uranium purification conducted at the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works on North Broadway. In 1942, the St. Louis chemical manufacturer began refining uranium for the Manhattan Project, the secret wartime program to develop the atom bomb. The uranium used in the first atomic test explosion and the initial atomic attack on Japan was processed in St. Louis.
The first atom bomb used in actual warfare exploded over Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning on Aug. 6, 1945. More than 100,000 people died, either instantly or of radiation sickness. The 2-kiloton bomb was nicknamed “Little Boy.” The annihilation would be repeated three days later on Nagasaki. Japan quickly surrendered.
Whether the atom bomb attacks saved more lives by bringing a rapid end to the war is still a matter of great debate. President Harry S Truman, a Missourian, claimed that using the bomb prevented what would have been bloody land invasion that could have cost the U.S. a million more casualties.
This much is known, Japanese civilians who survived the attack on Hiroshima say they didn’t hear any noise at the moment the bomb detonated. Instead, they describe a blinding light, disintegration, darkness, and fire.
In short, hell on earth.
Rubey M. Hulen, the judge who signed off on the airport nuke-waste dump, later sentenced himself to death.
On the morning of July 7, 1956, federal district Judge Rubey M. Hulen, had breakfast with his wife before a scheduled doctor’s appointment at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.
He never made it to the appointment.
Instead, he was pronounced dead at the same hospital later that day. The family gardener found Hulen’s body at approximately 10 a.m. lying in the backyard at 16 Southmoor Drive in Clayton. The death certificate indicates Hulen died of a gunshot wound to the right temple. A .32-caliber revolver was found next to his right hand.
Nearly a decade earlier, on September 23, 1946, Hulen signed an order sanctioning the taking of 21-plus acres adjacent to the St. Louis airport. The acquisition by the U.S. War Department was carried out quietly on behalf of the top-secret Manhattan Engineering District, which purchased the land for $20,000 to store radioactive materials produced by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works of St. Louis. The materials were byproducts of uranium processing used to create the first atomic bombs and subsequent nuclear weapons work.
For the next twelve years, open dump trucks loaded with radioactive residues continued to be shipped from Mallinckrodt’s plant on North Broadway to the airport location. As the piles grew, radioactive contamination migrated off site, draining into nearby Coldwater Creek, which flows through the sprawling suburban communities of North St. Louis County.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began cleaning up the creek in the late 1990s and the work continues today.
At the time of his death, Judge Hulen, a Roosevelt appointee, was preparing to sentence two former Truman administration officials on corruption charges. That decision may have not been the only thing weighing on his mind.
Two years earlier, he had overseen the extortion trial of five labor union officials, meting out stiff punishments to all of them, including a 12-year sentence to Lawrence Callanan, the boss of Steamfitters Local 562, a politically-active St. Louis-based union with ties to organized crime.
At the sentencing, Hulen admonished Callanan for his lack of contrition.
Hulen, a marksman and World War I vet, practiced shooting his handgun in the backyard of his Clayton mansion on a regular basis. Given the circumstances, the target practice may have been prompted by his need for self-defense.
Though the press presumed the judge’s demise to be a suicide brought on by depression, the St. Louis coroner ruled the death an open verdict. Following the incident, the Clayton Police searched the backyard but reportedly failed to find either the bullet or the cartridge that had been fired.
Among those who rushed to the hospital after the shooting was attorney Forrest Hemker, a family friend. Interestingly, the law firm of Greensfelder Hemker & Gale later represented the Catholic Church during its ownership of the radioactively-contaminated West Lake Landfill in the 1980s and early 1990s. The contamination at the landfill originally came from the airport by way of the interim storage site on Latty Avenue in Hazelwood.