St. Louis County plan pushes testing and cleanup for all work in Coldwater Creek area | Policy


ST. LOUIS COUNTY — A majority of County Council on Tuesday considered a proposal to require notification of federal and emergency officials of construction projects along Coldwater Creek to ensure radioactive soil is removed before shovels do not touch the ground.

The idea, sponsored by 2nd District Democrat Kelli Dunaway, aims to trigger notification from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and St. Louis County Emergency Management whenever a construction permit or utility is in demand in parts of North County likely to have radioactive soil or other materials. .

Backers say this would ensure that small projects that may raise potentially radioactive soil get the same testing and remediation from the Corps as government and utility projects.

Dunaway announced his intention to draft the legislation pending more details, saying it would ensure that “important parties know when there will be any type of activity that could dust off radioactive waste and put everyone on deck to ensure we keep the community safe.

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The idea was backed by a majority of council Democrats during a hearing on plans to replace the James S. McDonnell Boulevard Bridge over the Creek. Rita Days, Shalonda Webb and Lisa Clancy expressed alarm that County Emergency Management Office Director Michele Ryan said she had only recently been made aware of a bridge project that was in the planning stages and design for two years.

Government projects and those carried out by large utility companies are already being carried out in coordination with the US Army Corps of Engineers, which for years has been removing soil and mitigating environmental damage caused by the illegal dumping of decades-old radioactive waste. of the country’s atomic weapons program.

But residents concerned about waste said projects by businesses or landlords don’t get the same scrutiny.

“What if someone wants to dig something substantial in their garden? … Citizens need to understand that there is potential danger out there,” said Harvey Ferdman, chair of the West Lake Community Advisory Group.

Christen Commuso, policy specialist for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, also called on the county to establish a database to document the cleanup of contaminated waste throughout North County.

The afternoon hearing, which only the council’s four Democrats attended, addressed environmental and health concerns raised by the demolition of the bridge, which sits on known contaminated soil in an industrial area just north from St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Just Moms STL said last week they only heard about the project because of a pending bill that would update plans for a phased demolition in a complete and unique demolition. Demolition would take place in June 2023 at the earliest. Then the Corps would come and clean up any contaminated soil. Then the county contractor would return to build a new bridge.

Phil Moser, who manages the Corps’ cleanup of former nuclear sites, detailed a long list of precautions on Tuesday that he said would ensure the materials were safely removed and prevent their spread. Moser pointed out that the project would be similar to the replacement of the Pershall Road Bridge as part of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s renovations on I-270, during which the Corps cleaned up 35,000 cubic yards of contaminated material.

“Whenever we perform these corrective actions, we follow proven processes,” Moser said. “We’ve been doing this for years and making sure we have the right people and the right procedures in place to address any concerns.”

The project gives the Army Corps of Engineers the opportunity to clean up 40,000 cubic meters of contaminated materials under the bridge and along the boulevard that would otherwise not be accessible, Moser said.

Testimony from Moser, county officials and contractors on the ground appeared to satisfy most concerns about the project.

“It looks like they’re working really hard on a great plan, we just want to make sure that in the future we don’t have to see it like this again,” said Just Moms volunteer Dawn Chapman.

Ryan, the director of emergency management, said she was confused when she heard about the bridge project on Thursday, but after speaking to federal officials and the county public works department, “slept much better “.

“These people know they are jobs, and I think it was just a miscommunication issue,” she said. Ryan said his agency has since also developed a draft emergency plan that will be distributed to businesses in the area.

Joseph Kulessa, acting deputy director of transportation and public works, said the agency did not believe it had to notify emergency communications because it had notified the Corps.

“Obviously we got it wrong,” he said. “We are very interested in resolving this issue in the future.”

Dunaway, whose district includes the McDonnell Bridge area, held the bill on Tuesday updating plans for the project to allow other councils to participate, but said she wanted to ‘move this project forward before the bridge collapses – and we have a real disaster on our hands.”

The McDonnell project would not begin until at least next summer. Scott Norris, a county liaison for the project, said construction workers would only have to deal with the risk of contaminated materials during demolition. They would not return to the site until the Corps had finished clearing and clearing all contaminated materials.

“When they come back to build the new bridge, it will be clean,” he said.

Moser said security measures would be taken throughout the project.

The soil will be transported to a secure Corps containment facility adjacent to McDonnell and then to an approved disposal facility in Idaho.

Concerns persist as Coldwater Creek cleanup completion date pushed back to 2038

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