ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Faced with lab results that found radiation in the dirt at the NGA West Construction site, the head of the St. Louis Development Corporation says it’s not dangerous because it’s not man-made.
SLDC Executive Director Otis Williams is responding after an environmental group called for work to halt on the project to allow time for more tests.
“This is a safe site, and what has been found is naturally-occurring within many communities within the St. Louis region,” Williams said. “We do not believe that there is a need for further tests.”
Williams met with KMOX for an interview that included a speaker-phone link up with Joe Koch, Executive Director of Operations for R.M. Wester and Associates, the St. Peters firm that conducted lab tests on soil samples taken from 2233 Cass Avenue.
The samples were taken in mid-November and released to KMOX through a public records request.
“There is no danger to the people working there,” Koch said. “The levels are at least a thousand times less than what the members of the general public are allowed to receive for working around any type of radioactive material.”
Koch was asked to comment on the Missouri Coalition for the Environment warning the levels of Thorium found at the NGA West site would qualify for cleanup, if the same levels were found at the West Lake Landfill nuclear site.
“That is a totally different type of material that is processed Uranium and Thorium, and so most of the Uranium was removed from the ore, and so, therefore , that poses a whole different type of toxicological and radiological consideration.”
Koch says radiation found “in nature” is not as bad as the man-made kind.
“Naturally-occuring (radiation) is something that we are exposed to every day. It’s in concrete, it’s in cobblestone, it’s in people’s granite counter tops . That is naturally occurring, and as long as you treat it as it’s supposed to be treated, it poses no harm to people. You can be be exposed to it every day.”
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment has sent letters to the EPA and Army Corps, requesting further testing at NGA West–and across the street at the Pruitt-Igoe site, where the U.S. government allegedly sprayed radioactive material during Cold War experiments.
Koch was asked if any of the material found so far may have come from the alleged spraying of radioactive material during Cold War experiments in the area.
“I did some quick research on that experiment, and if they had used any type of radioactive material — again, I can’t confirm whether they did or not — the isotopes that were potentially used have a short enough half-life that as of today we would not be able to find any of that material.”
Williams says he’s awaiting word from the EPA and Missouri Department of Natural Resources on whether they think the sites need more testing.