WEST LAKE LANDFILL

West Lake Landfil protestMissouri Attorney General Chris Koster has called the radioactive West Lake Landfill one of the most significant environmental challenges Missouri has faced in decades. The EPA has been derelict in its duty to protect this community and has engaged in purposeful concealment of documents which show ongoing community health threats. In many ways, the EPA has taken on the demeanor of an adversary to this community, not unlike their handling of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan. For this reason, Byron strenuously supports transferring the jurisdiction of the West Lake Landfill from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers, who has the capacity and expertise to execute the clean-up of weapons-related nuclear byproduct material. Byron also pledges to introduce legislation to establish a relocation program for families that live within 1 mile of the site.

Nuclear Hotseat Podcast #275, Sept. 27, 2016: West Lake Update w/Byron DeLear, NM Holtec "Interim" Waste Dump? – Don Hancock

Andidote–TheLipTV2, Episode 35 with host Michael Parker interviewing Byron DeLear, Nov. 9, 2015: Radioactive St. Louis: West Lake Landfill Nuclear Waste & Liability

Coast to Coast AM with host George Noory interviewing Byron DeLear, Jan. 3, 2016: West Lake Landfill News Update

Nuclear Hotseat Podcast #237, Jan. 6, 2016: West Lake Politics, Update w/Byron DeLear or view transcript of interview

Nuclear Hotseat Podcast #228, Nov. 3, 2015: West Lake Nuclear Political Hot Potato—Byron DeLear on Legal Issues, Mimi German on Radiation Monitoring

President Obama needs to take action on radioactive West Lake Landfill

St. Louis Post-Dispatch mastheadSt. Louis Post-Dispatch | Opinion
Aug. 25, 2015
By Byron DeLear and Dawn Chapman

If ever there were an issue that needed executive action from the White House, it’s the radioactive West Lake Landfill. Located in densely populated north St. Louis County, the site contains nearly 50,000 tons of highly radiotoxic, uncontained nuclear waste produced by the Manhattan Project during World War II. After 42 years, continuous finger-pointing, and an endless train of studies and reports, little has been done to clean it up.

The nuclear waste at West Lake was illegally dumped there in 1973, and as the Post-Dispatch recently reported, records show additional radioactive material from Mallinckrodt’s downtown facility may have also been deposited at the site. This new revelation was included in a recent bipartisan letter signed by Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt calling for the U.S. Department of Energy to re-evaluate the site’s cleanup status. The significance of this is that the U.S. government is wholly responsible for any and all health hazards connected to the Manhattan Project as detailed in the original contracts between Mallinckrodt and the Manhattan Engineering District acting in defense of America.

Cancer clusters and elevated sicknesses and deaths have been recorded in the surrounding area, including an ongoing health survey, which now shows more than 45 cases of appendix cancer. Appendix cancer is exceedingly rare, and this incidence rate is 1,075 percent higher than the national average.

To make matters worse, an underground fire burns in an adjacent landfill and is migrating toward the radioactive waste. The fire has burned for years and it appears no one has even tried to put it out. There is no other radioactive site in the United States with an underground fire burning next to it.

The fact that thousands of tons of radioactive material is at the site has never been in dispute, but unlike the 100 or so other similarly contaminated sites in St. Louis, West Lake has been excluded from the federal program (FUSRAP) specifically tasked with cleaning up nuclear weapons waste. Currently, the EPA Superfund oversees the radioactive material at West Lake, while the state of Missouri has jurisdiction over the underground fire, which may already be reaching small pockets of dangerous substances. Needless to say, the fire and radiation do not respect man-made jurisdictions and arbitrary borders drawn on maps.

To further compound the problem, a series of private corporations swirl around the history of the site and ownership of the material dumped there. As expected, these private entities have repeatedly shown a priority to mitigate corporate liability at the expense of the local community. Phoenix-based Republic Services, the current owner of the site, recently attempted to block court-ordered monitoring data from being provided to the state of Missouri, but Attorney General Chris Koster fought back and won. Last week, the Department of Natural Resources released a letter indicating the fire was moving closer to areas that have tested positive for high levels of radioactive contaminants.

We are witness to a train wreck in slow motion that could have far-reaching negative consequences for the entire region, and further finger-pointing and inaction are no longer an option. The decades-long lack of action suggests the problem is a cross-jurisdictional “nuclear Gordian knot,” only to be severed by executive action from the White House.

President Obama has stated, “By the time a decision reaches my desk, by definition, it’s a hard problem with no easy answers. Otherwise somebody else would have solved it and I would never even hear about it.”

The West Lake Landfill has proved to be one such “hard problem”— and because local residents have suffered and are continuing to suffer due to the defense of our nation, the issue has an appropriate place with the commander-in-chief. The Department of Energy, EPA, and Department of Defense are all under the White House, and for a complete and responsible resolution, the jurisdictional finger-pointing must stop. The site must be dealt with in a holistic manner.

As recommended by policy experts Bob Alvarez and Dr. Helen Caldicott, and numerous other community leaders including Kay Drey and Just Moms STL, the entire location must be folded into the St. Louis-based, Army Corps FUSRAP program, which is the cleanup program for weapons-related nuclear waste. With bipartisan support from Sens. McCaskill and Blunt, President Obama could very well accomplish this with the stroke of a pen.

Byron DeLear statement on the West Lake Landfill at the West Lake Landfill candidate forum, August 18, 2016:

"Many thanks for pressing-in and being here to hear candidates’ view and actions concerning this important issue. I absolutely share your concern about the radioactive material in our community at the West Lake Landfill and have spent hundreds of hours in research and advocacy and working with Just Moms STL to help the families that live near the site in an effort to find a resolution and get this site cleaned-up. It is an ongoing threat and needs action immediately. I'd like to share with you some of my perspectives on the situation and actions that I've taken to date. Firstly, the EPA has been derelict in its duty to protect this community and has engaged in purposeful concealing of documents which show ongoing community health threats and in many ways has taken on the demeanor of an adversary to this community not unlike their handling of lead poisoning in Flint Michigan. For this reason, I strenuously support transferring the jurisdiction of the West Lake Landfill from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers who has the capacity and expertise to execute the clean-up of weapons-related nuclear byproduct material. I also pledge to introduce legislation to establish a relocation program for families that live within 1 mile of the site.

As a candidate for State Representative in Missouri's 70th District, I recognize the West Lake Landfill is the single most important concern of the residents who live here. Further, it is one of the most significant environmental challenges Missouri has faced in decades. This looming-catastrophe-in-slow-motion has had a national and even international impact. To me, it's an "all hands on-deck" moment. If there is anything I can do to help move this issue forward I will. When I first met Kirbi Pemberton a year and half ago and heard about her daughter’s tragic death I was deeply moved - after that, I resolved to do whatever I could to help the nearby residents like Kirbi who have suffered so dearly due to the defense of our nation. I have spent the last year walking the district and speaking with many folks in the community and nearly every single one is concerned about the radioactive West Lake Landfill and want something done about it. They want action now. Many are aware of recent revelations showing further spread of the radiological contamination and understand that this is a regional threat to human health which has a huge impact on our community. They are also hungry for information and do not trust what they're hearing from the EPA. I live 6 miles south of the site and I want this community made whole. I believe the Federal Government has the responsibility to clean-up the nuclear weapons-related waste at West Lake. I have spoken about legal approaches to address this issue with Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, the White House legal team, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the General Counsel for the Department of Energy (DOE), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and numerous other agencies, elected officials, attorneys, and responsible parties to help move our situation forward. The circumstances and administerial paralysis associated with West Lake and Coldwater Creek seemed strikingly familiar to other nuclear waste sites I had worked on in the past.

Ten years ago, while working with the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Nuclear Nonproliferation Committee, I toured numerous toxic and radioactive military sites in Southern California including the Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) which is home to the only uncontained partial nuclear meltdown in the U.S. In 2006, I publicly called attention to the fact that the DOE was derelict in its duty to clean-up sites like the SSFL. I also released a statement framing the DOD as the "worst polluter on the planet" producing more toxic waste than the five top U.S. petrochemical corporations combined. It was through this experience with PSR that allowed me the opportunity to share documents and information concerning the West Lake Landfill a year ago with Dr. Helen Caldicott, one of the world's preeminent experts on the health impacts of radioactive material, and included her observations and interviews in numerous columns for Examiner and one for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I organized conference calls with Dr. Caldicott and Just Moms STL and other elected officials like Rep. Bill Otto and Sen. Jill Schupp. I asked Dr. Caldicott to come to our region and tour the radioactive sites here and to conduct the nuclear symposium she did for Dr. Gwendolyn Verhoff's program at the St. Louis Community College in February. I helped coordinate Dr. Caldicott's tour and sponsored a gathering for the symposium panelists like County Councilman Dr. Sam Page and others who had traveled from across the U.S to attend. Last November, I discovered a little known recall provision within the Atomic Energy Act while studying primary sources related to the West Lake Landfill. After studying most of the records available, I hadn't seen any prior mention of this remedy. I immediately called Harvey Ferdman, Dawn Chapman, Jill Schupp, Bob Alvarez, and nuclear litigator Diane Curran. Bob and Diane examined the provision and both confirmed its apparent validity and relevance to our case at West Lake. Kay Drey called the discovery "icebox chocolate cake" and Sen. Schupp said it was a "game-changer." Since then, the Missouri Attorney General’s office has also researched and explored the validity of this approach - a process which is still ongoing. By all appearances, the provision holds water, although we haven't found an instance of its use before.

I find it absolutely unconscionable that the citizens in this region have been put in jeopardy based on inaction by the Federal Government to clean-up the nuclear waste associated with the Manhattan Project. These folks that are near the site are suffering due to the defense of our nation and in many ways are like heroes left behind enemy lines. It is incumbent on the Federal Government to make this community whole and indeed the entire United States should shoulder the burden for this clean-up. St. Louis shouldered the extraordinary burden of our nation’s defense during the Greatest Generation’s effort to win World War II — it is time for a grateful nation to clean-up this orphaned, threatening radioactive material before more lives are lost."

I'd be happy to discuss this situation further with you and invite you to attend the West Lake Landfill Community meeting this Thursday, September 15th at John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Bridgeton at 630pm.

Compilation of Byron DeLear's writing and articles on the radioactive West Lake Landfill issue: Byron-DeLear-articles-and-interviews-on-West-Lake-Landfill.pdf

Just Moms STL: Facebook page for the community action group leading the efforts to clean up the West Lake Landfill site.