Missouri House Committee to hear bills on aiding victims of hazardous waste in St. Louis, St. Charles County

Parents are expressing concern after a round of independent testing detected radioactive waste...
Parents are expressing concern after a round of independent testing detected radioactive waste and at elevated levels, inside Jana Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District. Mohanned Badra has a son who attends the school.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 9:57 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Two Missouri State Representatives have filed two bills to seek answers for people who are victims of hazardous and atomic bomb waste in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties.

Rep. Tricia Byrnes (R) and Rep. Richard West (R), both from Wentzville, have filed bills HCR 21 and HCR 22, respectively, to urge the Missouri Attorney General, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to investigate whether the State of Missouri and residents could get compensated from the United States Government for contamination caused by the Manhattan Project.

Byrnes has also filed another bill, HB 1361, that would have the Department of Health and Senior Services make a heat map of any cancer or other condition caused by hazardous and atomic bomb waste that compensation was or is available under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The point of the map would be to see if residents are experiencing the same illnesses as those involved in the making of the atomic bomb.

Both Byrnes and West said their families have had their lives affected by hazardous waste. Byrnes’ son has fought cancer, and West’s mother died from cancer, while his brother has been exposed to hazardous and atomic bomb waste. They said seeing the effects this has on the lives of Missourians made it their top priority.

“I believe, we have a duty to serve Missourians injured by the radioactive and hazardous waste created by our Federal Government during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War Era,” Byrnes said. “Rarely a week has gone by in five years in which I have not been notified of a person with a rare cancer. When I hear of a 45-year-old who has been diagnosed with brain cancer, I can usually guess which high school they attended.”

The issue of hazardous waste from the aftermath of the Manhattan project was reinvigorated in October 2022 when Jana Elementary School closed after radioactive contamination was found at the school.

“This issue goes far beyond our region. Just a few months ago, students at Jana Elementary School in Florissant switched to virtual learning after being exposed to unacceptably high levels of radioactive waste,” Byrnes added. “These are our people, our children, being affected by this, and it is up to us and our government to ensure the health and wellbeing of Missourians in all parts of our state are protected in the event they have a hazardous site in their area, and to determine the impact and course of action available to the victims of this radioactive waste.”

From 1942 until 1957, uranium used for atomic bombs was processed in downtown St. Louis. In 1957, the production of uranian was moved to a facility in Weldon Springs in St. Charles County. This facility operated until 1966.

Some of the waste from processing uranian was dumped near Lambert St. Louis International Airport. There, wind and rain swept contaminants into Coldwater Creek, which runs from Lambert Airport through many towns in North St. Louis County, until it meets with the Missouri River.

Tests from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and one of the independent labs, Boston Chemical Data Corp., have disagreed on whether or not Jana Elementary is safe. USACE’s testing showed safe levels of materials at the school, while the independent report by Boston Chemical Data Corp. said the levels were unsafe.

United States Senator Josh Hawley (R) has introduced a bill in Washington called the Justice for Jana Elementary Act. This bill would require the Department of energy to clean up all of the radioactive waste left behind that impacts Jana Elementary. It would also order USACE to test all Hazelwood School properties.

Coldwater Creek moves through many neighborhoods in North County and skirts multiple parks, including Duchesne Park, Sunset Greenway Trailhead: Coldwater Commons Park, St. Ferdinand Park and Fort Belle Fontaine.

Both HCR 21 and HCR 22 are scheduled to be heard by the House General Laws Committee at 4 p.m. on March 7.

clarification: A previous version of this story had wording that implied multiple agencies disagreed with the USACE's report. Only one report done by Boston Chemical Data Corp. has disagreed with USACE's findings as of March 2023.