Radioactive waste in Metro back in front of Missouri capitol committee

A Missouri capitol committee will once again take up the issue of radioactive waste across the metro.
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 4:22 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – A Missouri capitol committee will once again take up the issue of radioactive waste across the metro.

A growing group of people spoke at the capitol last week in support of the resolution. They are seeking data and accountability from the U.S. Department of Energy after generations of families developed rare forms of cancer.

“We used to swim in there, make mudslides,” said Jim Gaffney. “We were in there constantly.”

Gaffney looks back fondly on his childhood. He grew up blocks from Coldwater Creek in North County.

“It was fun. We had no idea what was going on, or was about to happen,” he said.

Gaffney is a four-decade cancer survivor. He was first diagnosed at age 25 with Hodgkin lymphoma. A decade later, it was lung cancer. But it wasn’t until his then-teenage son was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that his family started questioning a connection.

The Gaffney family is one of many who testified at the Missouri State Capitol in early March because they believe the cancers were caused by contamination not just in the creek but across the St. Louis metro.

A study by the state found elevated levels of cancer in years past in the zip codes where the creek runs, due to radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project. The creek is now being cleaned up decades later, but the group is still trying to draw attention to what they call decades of neglect.

“Other groups have carried this issue for a long time. The state of Missouri needs to carry this issue,” said Karen Nickel, co-founder of Just Moms STL.

Nickel also played in the creek. She has autoimmune diseases and her kids have various health challenges. She said this is far from the first time they’ve raised the issue with state lawmakers, but she is hopeful it is the last.

Nickel and Gaffney both spoke in support of a new resolution that asks for formal studies and compensation for victims, akin to settlements reached in Nevada.