The state of Missouri could soon be buying the homes of Bridgeton residents, potentially exposed to radioactive waste.
The first hearing of Senate Bill 22 was held Wednesday in Jefferson City. If it passes, 91 families will have the option to move to a safer place, where concerns of radioactive exposure will no longer haunt them.
In Bridgeton’s Spanish Village subdivision, Bill Wilson has been sitting on the same front porch since 1975. He says, “The radioactive waste was dumped there in 1973, so nobody really knew it. If we had known it, we probably wouldn’t have moved here.”
It wasn’t until 2010 that the Wilsons learned what lay beyond their quiet neighborhood. Vernita Wilson explains, “We like our house, we like the location, we don’t like knowing what’s sitting over there, silently maybe doing some bad stuff that could potentially be harmful to us. And the thought of moving is a lot of work, but we would certainly be willing to move if we got a buyout.”
State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D – Dist. 14) is sponsoring this bill. She says the buyouts are better than the alternative: selling on the open market to unsuspecting families.
“There are people who are still purchasing homes in Spanish Village, and they have not been told whatsoever that their house is even next to a landfill,” Nadal says. Her bill would make failure to disclose that information a criminal offense.
The bill would also appropriate up to $12.5 million to buy homes from residents like the Wilsons, at fair market value.
“I believe in saving these families’ lives. We’re now in the third and fourth generation of people who are victims of this contamination,” says Nadal.
It’s a mission this state senator calls “pro-life”. She explains, “I cannot stomach the fact that there is known radioactive waste, and people don’t know about it. They’re getting sick, they’re having to file medical bankruptcy because of their illnesses, and they’re basically being cheated out of their lives.”
Not all residents are eager to leave their lifelong homes. Several neighbors say that even if the bill does pass, they’re staying put, unless they’re forced out. “No I’m pretty happy here,” says Spanish Village resident Jerry Smith, “Good place to live and no concerns about this at all.”
Nadal says her bill originally called for buyouts for a much wider area than these 91 homes, but that would have cost the state upwards of $12 billion dollars.