In a stunning development on the radioactive West Lake Landfill story, today a bipartisan congressional delegation from Missouri introduced a bill to finally instigate an expedited clean-up of the orphaned nuclear waste site. Currently, the site is under Superfund jurisdiction by the EPA and an encroaching underground fire at an adjacent landfill, overseen by the State of Missouri, is threatening to reach the radioactive material. After four decades of inaction little has been done to clean it up. The legislation proposed today would transfer jurisdiction of West Lake from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers’ FUSRAP program, which has the capacity and expertise to clean-up nuclear weapons-related waste.
“The EPA’s unacceptable delay in implementing a solution for the West Lake landfill has destroyed its credibility and it is time to change course,” said Sen. Roy Blunt. “The Corps has the knowledge, experience, and confidence of the families living near the site. Transferring clean up efforts to its control will help move the process forward and finally give these families the peace of mind they deserve. No parent should have to raise their child in an environment where they fear for their health and safety.”
“Transferring clean up efforts will help move the process forward and finally give these families the peace of mind they deserve. No parent should have to raise their child in an environment where they fear for their health and safety.” – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt
The radioactive material was illegally dumped at West Lake in 1973 under dubious circumstances by the Cotter Corporation under license from the now defunct Atomic Energy Commission. It was recently uncovered that there were potential discrepancies with regard to the Commission’s licensing of the West Lake radioactive material. Additionally, a stop-loss mechanism built into the law to “recall” any threatening or mishandled nuclear waste was not acted upon.
After researching many of the primary source documents, it is self-evident that the case at West Lake has slipped through the cracks and become a cross-jurisdictional “nuclear-Gordian knot.” After 42 years, continuous finger-pointing, and an endless train of studies and reports, little has been done to clean it up. However, the administerial paralysis has not come without a heavy price. Emerging health studies and surveys are revealing elevated levels of sickness, disease, and death in the affected area. Property values have plummeted and the state of general anxiety felt by local residents due to the perception of a growing threat is only further exacerbated by what appears to be a callous, unresponsive system of government.
Today, however, two U.S. Senators and Representatives from Missouri are attempting to turnaround that perception.
“This is a huge victory for this community,” said Harvey Ferdman, policy advisor to Missouri State Representative Bill Otto. “Despite all the bickering in Congress, we can still accomplish important things with bipartisan efforts.”
“What we’re facing here in St. Louis is radiological contamination leftover from the Greatest Generation’s work to save the world during World War II. Now it’s time to save St. Louis.” – Harvey Ferdman
Otto’s district encompasses both the West Lake Landfill and the Bridgeton Landfill, the source of the underground fire. Both Otto and Ferdman have supported the community action group Just Moms STL in calling attention to this issue with the goal of arriving at a “safe and permanent solution” for the St. Louis region.
“We’ve conducted too many actions to count and exhausted our blood, sweat, and tears to get this legislation,” remarked Robbin Dailey of Just Moms STL. “Now the real struggle begins in getting this passed and properly funded. We’ve been fighting for transfer of authority to FUSRAP for the past three years, so I suppose we’re already battle hardened. We are ready for the next phase to get this past the finish line.”
“It’s been a long, well-coordinated campaign by this community and its supporters and we’re hoping the rest of Congress understands the seriousness and urgency of our situation,” said Ferdman. “What we’re facing here in St. Louis is radiological contamination leftover from the Greatest Generation’s work to save the world during World War II. Now it’s time to save St. Louis.”
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