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Could Dooley Do More to Rid County of Nuclear Waste?

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Maryland Heights mother-of-three Dawn Chapman and her son Quinn.

Maryland Heights mother-of-three Dawn Chapman and her son Quinn.

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BRIDGETON, Mo. (KMOX) – With an underground landfill fire burning near a nuclear dump site, activists want St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley to champion the removal of nuclear waste.

“People want this radioactive waste removed,” said Dawn Chapman, a Maryland Heights mother of three who helps run a Facebook page on the West Lake Landfill.

Chapman says among the north St. Louis County residents she regularly meets with, there is a growing alarm over the status quo of raising children near a nuclear waste site.

“Charlie Dooley needs to make an appearance himself,” Chapman said, “He needs to come out here and stand next to us because I’ve never seen him. I’d like for him, Charlie Dooley, to come out and stand in front of the landfill and say, ‘You know what? I’ve heard from the residents here and they have made it clear that they do not want this nuclear weapons waste in their back yard.'”

Chapman says Dooley could use his bully pulpit to call on the Missouri congressional delegation to make it a priority to permanently remove all the nuclear waste.

An environmental group that has been closely following the West Lake Landfill agrees.

“[Dooley] has the power to raise awareness about this issue and about what our federally-elected officials should be doing,” said Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “We’d be incredibly excited to hear Charlie Dooley say I want the radioactive waste out and call on our federally elected officials to do that.”

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley  (KMOX/File)

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley (KMOX/File)

In 2009, the St. Louis County Council passed a resolution calling for the removal of nuclear waste from the West Lake Landfill but Dooley never signed the resolution.

A Dooley spokesman says it’s not unusual for the County Executive to leave a symbolic resolution unsigned.

In late July, KMOX asked Dooley about concerns of residents and activists that he is taking too low a profile on the nuclear waste issue.

“This is a state and a federal issue,” Dooley said, “And we support that something needs to be done, but again, it’s in St. Louis County, but it’s an EPA issue and it’s a state issue.”

Dooley’s position angers Chapman, who says the County Executive could do much more.

“You know what? It’s not my jurisdiction. I’m a mom and I’m spending hours a day fighting to get it out,” Chapman said. “I don’t buy that. I don’t believe that at all.”

KMOX made an open records request to St. Louis County for any correspondence with the Missouri congressional delegation, the Environmental Protection Agency, or any other agency requesting that the nuclear waste be removed from the West Lake Landfill.

A Dooley spokesman says there is no such document.

DOOLEY WRITES EPA ABOUT RADIATION CONCERNS

While he has stopped short of pushing for a nuclear cleanup, Dooley did sign a letter sent just last week to the EPA raising concerns about radiation in ground water near the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills.

In that letter to EPA Region VII Administrator Karl Brooks, Dooley says:

“St. Louis County is aware that radium contamination has been detected in groundwater samples around the Westlake and Bridgeton Landfills. St. Louis County also understands that the radium contamination is not anticipated from the known contaminants deposited in those landfills.

The purpose of this correspondence is to stress St. Louis County’s concerns about the source and extent of this radium contamination. St. Louis County recognizes that EPA VII is working with the environmental and health agencies of Missouri to try to resolve the radium presence. St. Louis County is also aware that the USGS is partnering with EPA VII on the Westlake efforts.

St. Louis County strongly encourages EPA VII to work with its partners to expeditiously determine the source and extent of the radium contamination as well as its acute and chronic health effects on residents of St. Louis County, especially those in the immediate proximity of the two landfills.

We continue to have great concerns regarding the subsurface smoldering event at the landfill and the potential environmental and health impacts this event has created.

My staff and I would appreciate a response and briefing about the efforts to date and planned efforts to alleviate our concerns.”

DOOLEY ADMINISTRATION’S PAST LETTERS ON LANDFILL

In addition to the letter sent last week to the EPA, Dooley’s Health Director Dr. Dolores Gunn sent two emails in January to state agencies requesting more study on the Bridgeton and West Lake landfill crisis.

Gunn wrote the Missouri Department of Natural Resources requesting ambient air monitoring. “Many residents have expressed their concerns about their family’s health in relation to the SSE (underground fire) and the St. Louis County Health Department believes that the results obtained by air monitoring could, with the assistance of MDHSS, help to allay, or substantiate, their concerns.”

Gunn also wrote the Missouri Department of Health in January asking for health studies on three separate issues – the landfill fire, the nuclear waste buried nearby, and the Coldwater Creek area of north St. Louis cCounty where radioactive waste was “improperly deposited years ago and is now being partially remediated .”

KMOX on Friday requested an interview with Dooley to respond to concerns about his handling of the Bridgeton landfill crisis. He did not call back.

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