Next door to Ferguson, the town of Bridgton, Missouri is about to become another symbol of a system that fails the most vulnerable citizens who fall through the cracks of economic and racial disparities. While the political fight for justice for people of color still rages in our local municipalities, the ravages of toxic waste on the health of those too poor to relocate or have a place at the power tables is costing more precious lives
The thousands of tons of radioactive waste in the Westlake landfill are contaminating the air, the groundwater and the trees of the area. The toxic nuclear waste originated in the 1940s and 50s when Mallinckrodt Chemical Works processed uranium for nuclear weapons. This waste was illegally dumped in the landfill in 1973 and has been polluting the waters of Cold Water Creek and the playgrounds where children have been swimming and playing for generations. You can read more about the situation here:
These toxic waters will contaminate the Missouri River, make their way to the Mighty Mississippi and there will not be enough bottled water to save us.
And now, the fires of the neighboring landfill are dangerously close to the radioactive waste. We don't know exactly how this will make the situation worse but the local schools have all sent out letters to parents about their plans for when the fires reach the nuclear waste. They are calling for "shelter in place"-- Reminds me of putting our coats over our heads under our desks in the 1950's.
This is not a new story. A local priest tells how he served a parish in Bridgton and in just two years he buried seven children with forms of leukemia. The cancer clusters and prevalence of birth defects and other diseases in the area are well known anecdotally as well as scientifically.
The DOH surveyed the surrounding eight zip codes and found higher rates of cancer.
Advocates like Kay Drey have been collecting frightening data for thirty years to encourage the government to clean up its mess.
The Missouri Attorney General, Chris Koster, published a study that found contamination in the groundwater and the vegetation.
JustMoms STL fights tirelessly for their children and the neighbors who are too sick to advocate for themselves.
Our federal representatives have worked ACROSS THE AISLE to pass legislation that is our only hope for a safe and permanent solution. House Resolution 4100 and Senate Bill 2306 authorize the transfer of the cleanup of the landfill from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers FUSRAP. The Senate bill has passed and we hope the House will follow and the President will support both!
Once again the people of "Ferguson" and neighboring communities need the nation to stand up to injustice. As we demand justice and clean water as a right for the people of Flint, we need the help of a compassionate nation to ask our President to tell the EPA to step aside and make it possible for FUSRAP to remove the nuclear waste and avert more suffering and another disaster.
For more information please visit justmomsstl.org or centralreform.org.
Rabbi Susan Talve