Coldwater Creek contamination cleanup moves to backyards -

Coldwater Creek contamination cleanup moves to backyards

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Crews cleanup radioactive waster from yards near Coldwater Creek in North County. Credit: KMOV Crews cleanup radioactive waster from yards near Coldwater Creek in North County. Credit: KMOV

Contractors for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers have begun digging up radioactively contaminated soil from four yards in Hazelwood.

Robert and Lea Cresham own one of the homes where tests discovered the contamination in 2015. 

"Five people came into my house and explained I have radiation in my yard," said Lea Gresham.

For years, the Corp of Engineers has been cleaning up sites around St. Louis that were contaminated with waste from the Manhattan project. But this is the first time that contaminated soil has been removed from residential property. 

Bruce Munholand, project manager said, "We are dealing with extremely low-level contamination when viewed in the grand scheme of things. In most cases what we're finding is barely above background levels."

Coldwater Creek was contaminated decades ago when radioactive waste that came from the processing of uranium for atomic bombs leaked from containers stored near St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Rain carried the waste across the street into Coldwater Creek and flooding carried radioactive particles onto property adjoining the creek. 
According to the Corp of Engineers, the contamination in the backyards is not on the surface and doesn't pose a risk to homeowners. And the material is anywhere from 6 inches to 3 feet deep. 

The contaminated soil that's removed will be packed in sealed rail cars and shipped to a landfill in Idaho that's approved for accepting low levels of radioactive waste. 

Munholand said the Corp of Engineers has taken more than 18,000 soil samples along a four-mile stretch of Coldwater Creek from the airport to the St. Denis Street bridge. The Corp of Engineers also plans to removed contaminated soil from an apartment complex and other property near the creek which is owned by the Metropolitan Sewer District.

Contractors removing the contaminated soil are taking steps to reduce the risk of dust particles getting into the air. 

Jon Rankins, a health physicist with the Army Corp of Engineers, said, "We continuously water or dampen the soils during excavation and loading operations so that there are no airborne dry dusty airborne conditions."

The current contamination removal process is expected to be completed in September or October.

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