HAZELWOOD, Mo. – Tempers flared over contamination at Coldwater Creek Thursday night. It happened at the first public meeting since the debut of the HBO documentary “Atomic Homefront.”
People who live in North St. Louis County are fighting to get radioactive waste removed from their community.
The purpose of the meeting was to update citizens on the progress the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have made so far with removing radioactive waste and to settle concerns from the public.
Some in the crowd asked questions.. many others just wanted an audience for their frustration.
The standing-room-only crowd squeezed into the Hazelwood Event Center to get answers.
Jenell Wright, co-founder of Coldwater Creek Facts Community Group, said she was pleased with the Corps’ progress.
“They are admitting to and finding radioactive contamination and removing it. There is no cover-up going on with that and I think that’s very important,” Wright said.
State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal found the meeting insincere.
“I felt it was very shallow, I felt that the crowd and people living in this area were not being given the truth,” she said.
Army engineers shared that soil testing, removal of contaminated soil and replacement of clean soil is finished in areas surrounding Latty Avenue and the Hazelwood Interim Storage Site.
“So our total was almost 26,000 cubic yards,” said Bruce Munholland, an engineer for the project.
They will now focus on areas of Coldwater Creek from the airport to where it pours into the Missouri River.
“We’re going to go as fast as we can but there is still very much left to do in your communities,” Munholland told the crowd.
The biggest sparks flew during State Senator Chapelle-Nadal’s question and answer period, in which she got testy with a representative of the Corps of Engineers. During the middle of the confrontation, another citizen came up, placed his hands on Chapelle-Nadal, and told her to “shut up.”
After her remarks, she confronted the citizen and told him to “Never tell me to shut up.”
Most of the questions asked by citizens were emotional.
“I want to know my grandchildren are safe, they are everything to my life,” said one woman.
Others proclaimed statements of frustration.
“I’m stuck there, I can never sell this property, ever,” said another woman.
With each, the Corp was limited in how they could respond, considering their mission is to only remove the radioactive waste, not to study health effects.
Representatives say, they are doing all they can, as fast as they can, but that just wasn’t enough for some who live with this every day.
“Do you guys really even care up there? That’s my question,” shouted a voice in the audience.
Some citizens showed up to complain about efforts out at the Bridgeton Landfill. That site is actually under the jurisdiction of the EPA, so the Corps of Engineers couldn’t help those individuals.