Cookies   I display ads to cover the expenses. See the privacy policy for more information. You can keep or reject the ads.

Video thumbnail
I'm in Weldon Spring, near St Louis, Missouri, USA,
and in the 1950s and 60s,
this strange, grey, wind-blasted hill wasn't here:
instead, there was a uranium processing factory.
And conditions for the workers back then were shocking by today's standards.
It wasn't quite the 1940s,
you can find testimony from back then of workers hand-scooping uranium ore,
but there are tales of spilled radioactive powder,
of overflowing disposal pits,
and of strange-looking frogs.
And I am not making that up.
When the factory here was running, it was known as "The Clean One".
And, well, it wasn't.
The plant here closed in 1966,
as the most contaminated site in the area:
PCBs, mercury, asbestos, and radioactive waste.
In the 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency declared Weldon Spring
a Superfund Site,
meaning it would finally be cleaned up.
And the result is this: a seven-storey high nuclear waste dump,
the permanent disposal cell,
containing more than a million cubic metres of toxic waste,
and hopefully keeping the local residents safe for the next 1,000 years or so.
And that was going to be pretty much all of the video.
If you search this place online, that's as far as a lot of articles go.
Except.
Then I did a bit more research.
And I found out about Coldwater Creek, a few miles away,
where radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project,
the project that built the first nuclear bombs,
the waste was just dumped there in the 1940s,
with the government's approval.
That waste eventually flowed, decades later, into people's backyards after flooding.
That was in 2015.
Then there's the West Lake Landfill, on the other side of St Louis,
where an underground trash fire has been burning
very close to another radioactive waste site for seven years.
Now, the risk is apparently minor.
No-one is about to find a glowing barrel in their backyard.
But radiation hazards are invisible and terrifying:
local residents are concerned about clusters of cancer diagnoses,
about infant mortality caused by contaminated groundwater.
There are wells for drinking water only a mile away.
The state department of health investigated
and their results set no-one's mind at ease.
There are so many confounding factors
that the facts are, well, somewhere between confusing and unknown,
and people are scared.
This site is a legacy of a time when the people in charge
didn't know, or didn't care, about the risks of radioactive contamination.
But this isn't a monument to how we've fixed their mistakes:
it's a reminder that we're still fixing them,
and that we'll still need to for centuries or millennia to come.