A new report draws a close connection between cancer and Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County.
A two-year health assessment by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded that radioactive waste in the creek could have increased the risk of developing bone, lung, skin or breast cancer as well as leukemia for those who lived nearby or who played in the creek as children.
"Our street was right next to the creek. My parents moved there when I was two and I moved away as an adult," said Kathryn Fults Ward.
Ward was diagnosed with leukemia in August.
"I had been healthy all my life but then boom, all of a sudden leukemia," she said.
Ward was one of many who attended Wednesday's public meeting at St. James United Methodist Church held by the federal agency, known as ATSDR, to explain the results of the study and answer questions.
Radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project was stored north of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport starting in 1946. Some of it was in piles that were uncovered. It's widely believed that wind and rain carried some of the radioactive waste into nearby Coldwater Creek. Some of that waste was later moved to another location near the creek on Latty Avenue.
Those contaminated sites have been cleaned up and currently, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is testing for contamination along the creek and removing soil with elevated levels of radioactivity. The contamination removed during the current efforts has been below the surface and not posing a risk to the public.
"I lost my son, he was born with a brain tumor. It's a brain tumor that occurs in 60-year-old men," said Kim Visintine.
Visintine was one of the original members of a group of former north St. Louis County residents concerned about the frequency and types of cancers diagnosed in loved ones and former classmates they grew up with. They worried cancer could have a connection to contamination in the creek.
"So what this health assessment is for us is a validation of everything we've been working for since 2011," said Visintine.
The ATSDR health assessment recommended further testing for dangerous levels of radioactive contamination in homes that flooded, along tributaries of Coldwater Creek and areas where likely contaminated soil was taken from near the creek was used at construction sites.
The agency is also recommending those who lived or played near the creek to talk to their doctor about their potential exposure.
Another public meeting will be held Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. James United Methodist Church at 315 Graham Road in Florissant.
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