Compensation sought for victims of nuclear weapons development

Two Republican state representatives from Wentzville are seeking a full accounting of the contamination and potential caused by the nuclear weapons work.
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 6:25 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Two Republican state representatives from Wentzville are seeking a full accounting of the contamination and potential caused by the nuclear weapons work that took place in the St. Louis region decades ago.

Additionally, they hope to get the state to press the federal government for compensation for people who developed rare cancers and diseases that were likely caused by radiation exposure.

Representative Tricia Byrnes filed House Concurrent Resolution number 21 last week, and Representative Richard West filed the companion House concurrent Resolution number 22. The legislation calls for a joint investigation by various departments of state government.

“We hope to get the state of Missouri and its agencies to stand up and ask the federal government to step in with some kind of legislative remedy,” said Byrnes.

“We’ve been fighting this as singular battles, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County. And I think if all the leaders come together, we approached the federal government and say, look, we want to be made whole,” said West.

Uranium was processed in the 1940′s and 1950′s at Mallinckrodt Chemical Works at a facility downtown for atomic bombs. Some of the waste was stored along Banshee Road near Lambert St. Louis International Airport and contributed to the contamination of nearby Coldwater Creek. Some of the waste was also stored in the 9200 block of Latty Avenue and eventually was illegally buried at West Lake Landfill.

Uranium was also processed at the Weldon Spring Chemical Plant along Highway 94 in St. Charles County from 1957-1966, next to Francis Howell High School. After the plant closed and before it became a Superfund Cleanup site, children were known to play in the abandoned buildings. People also swam in a nearby quarry where radioactive waste and remnants of the downtown St. Louis site were dumped.

Both Byrnes and West have relatives who’ve been diagnosed with rare cancers and diseases that are associated with exposure to radiation.

“The victims of this are starting to become numerous,” said West.

In 2018 the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services found elevated levels of cancer in the zip codes that Coldwater Creek runs through. And the CDC concluded that contamination in the creek was the likely cause.

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was set up to compensate nuclear weapons workers who develop one of about two dozen types of cancer associated with radiation exposure. A similar program called the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was set up to compensate people who lived downwind from nuclear bomb tests and also developed one of the cancers on the government list.

West and Byrnes are seeking to get the State of Missouri to advocate, on behalf of residents of the region with radiation-related cancers and illnesses, to be compensated similarly.

Both pieces of legislation have been assigned to the General Laws committee, which will hold a hearing on the legislation Tuesday, March 7, at 4 p.m. Byrnes and West are requesting that anyone who was diagnosed with radiation-related cancer or illness which may have been caused by the local work on the nuclear weapons program, to attend the hearing and tell their story.