The federal government never really cleaned up WWII-era radioactive waste in the St. Louis region, and still isn’t even properly monitoring it, argues an increasingly indignant Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley.
The feds’ faulty follow-up to nuclear waste left by the Manhattan Project’s pursuit of the atomic bomb was documented in a 2021 report by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources – which Hawley reminded Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm of in a letter this week.
What did the state DNR find? In the main, poorly placed and calibrated monitoring stations that aren’t telling the whole story of contamination at the Weldon Spring site in St. Charles.
“What they found is that the federal government’s supposed cleanup doesn’t appear to be very clean,” Hawley said in an interview with The Heartlander on Wednesday. “There’s uranium and water nearby. There’s uranium found in fish and ponds nearby.
“What you have in Weldon Spring, it’s a bunch of rocks. It’s a huge pile of rocks, basically over nuclear waste. That’s the extent of their cleanup. Very sophisticated!
“And what we’re finding is that the federal government hasn’t properly monitored it, hasn’t actually accounted for all of the potential runoff into stream and soil and so forth. So they need to test all of the surrounding area to see how wide the contamination is.
“And bottom line, the federal government needs to pay for the medical costs of people who have gotten sick because of this contamination.”
Hawley has been making an impassioned plea for months in Washington to get victims of the radiation the care and compensation that should be coming to them, however belatedly. And he’s been pressing for a cleanup that would come decades late.
“Absolutely. They need to clean up Coldwater Creek. They need to clean up Jana Elementary. They need to clean up the Westlake Landfill and Weldon Spring. They need to clean up all of it. But even the cleanup – unless they pay for the medical costs of the people who have gotten sick, that’s just not going to be enough.”
But in his letter this week to Secretary Granholm, Hawley also asks specifically that her department “immediately take steps to conduct additional sampling in this area, including through the establishment of additional monitoring sites …”
Does he think the department will respond?
“I do. I don’t know how long it will take, but yeah, they will respond because right now, they’re not getting anybody appointed or cleared to their agency, the Energy Department, because I’m holding (up) every single nominee.
“Listen, I’m not going to let these people get fast-tracked and get their promotions and get their pay raises and all of that if they are not going to take care of their job.
“What they have done is, they’ve allowed nuclear contamination for decades all over the St. Louis region. People have gotten sick, people have died, and they’ve lied about it. And there’s no way that I’m just going to wave that away and say, ‘Yeah, sure, go ahead, take a promotion.’ Huh-uh.”