How Radioactive Waste from the Atom Bomb Ended Up in a St. Louis Park

Thorium-230 was found all over the Lou.

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So "waste from atomic weapon production" is pretty high on the list of things you don't want to find in a public park, but that's just the scenario St. Louis is living out right now. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is busy at work cleaning thorium-230, a radioactive decay product of uranium, out of parks, homes, and other properties around Coldwater Creek.

As it turns out, the "low levels" of thorium-230 come straight from the Manhattan Project, the government program that eventually led to the United States dropping atomic weapons on Japan, the first (and only) wartime use of an atomic bomb. As it turns out, the uranium comes from a local source: the  Mallinckrodt Chemical Works facility in St. Louis. The enriched uranium was mostly shipped out for use in the Manhattan Project, but some of the waste was shipped to Hazlewood, a suburb of St. Louis.

Rather than disposing of it properly in a salt mine or something similar, Mallinckrodt left it out in the open, where it trickled into the creek. Every time the creek has flooded, it's brought a little more atomic waste up to parks and homes. The area has suffered higher-than-normal rates of cancer, and thorium can be found as deep as a foot underground. Some citizens have even banded together to draw public attention to the health problems, and a class action lawsuit is underway. 

Source: Quartz

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