JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are reacting to a report on the legacy St. Louis radioactive contamination from the Manhattan Project. Two Missouri state representatives plan on holding a press conference Thursday at the Weldon Spring Site Interpretive Center.
St. Louis County Democratic State Representative Doug Clemens and State Representative Tricia Byrnes of Wentzville will speak from the site of the former Weldon Spring Chemical Plant at noon on Thursday. Uranium ore was processed there and eventually used for weapons. They will specifically be addressing the radioactive contamination in North St. Louis County.
Newly public documents are showing how America’s push for the atomic bomb helped saddle St. Louis with an enduring radioactive waste problem. St. Louis was part of a geographically scattered national effort to build the first nuclear bomb.
The Associated Press examined hundreds of pages of internal memos, inspection reports and other items dating to the early 1950s. They show that radioactive material was handled at times with nonchalance and indifference that created pockets of contamination. Some residents worry about the effects to this day. One expert said the nuclear program’s secrecy allowed bad practices to continue for too long.
“We are gathering to remember those lost to the rare forms of cancer and illness that have been pronounced in this area,” states Clemens. “We will also call on Attorney General Andrew Bailey to use the powers of his office to seek justice for the Missouri families impacted by the reckless, dangerous and careless acts of negligence by the U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals (formerly Mallinckrodt Chemical Works), and any other entity involved in this conspiracy against the public.”
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley issued this statement Wednesday, “Years of stonewalling, half-truths and downright lies to the people of St. Louis from their government. This is why I jammed through the Senate a new law to clean up Jana Elementary – or rebuild it. No more excuses.”
The new report is part of an ongoing collaboration between The Missouri Independent, the nonprofit newsroom MuckRock and The Associated Press. The government documents were obtained by outside researchers through the Freedom of Information Act and shared with the news organizations. You can see the full report here.