Thursday, February 22, 2018

St. Louis Gave Birth to the Atomic Age

It's been a crazy start to the year, and we're on the verge of leaving February behind. Isn't that just nuts? The day job has been intense, and I've been on the road a lot in the last month. It's easy to neglect the blog when real life responsibilities take over my brain, but it's good to be back here.

So much has happened in the month I was gone, and to avoid being controversial and getting into any kind of debate (which seems to be popular on social media right now), I'll just focus on how I finished writing Gateway Mothman.

This book was fun to write, and I started writing it way back in 2014. Two years of writer's block might have killed this story, but I brought it back to life last fall. Even though Gateway Mothman focuses on one of my favorite urban legends/cryptozoid, the story's setting is important to me personally.

My story centers around a suburb in St. Louis, Bridgetowne. Bridgetowne is based on the real life town of Bridgeton. During the Manhattan Project, over 50,000 of tons of radioactive waste was dumped all around Lambert Airport near Bridgeton.

Mallinckrodt is based in town, and these days, it's known for it's lifesaving pharmaceuticals. Back in the 1860s, though, Mallinckrodt was known for its work in creating contrasting dyes for X-rays. This work lead them to become the very first company to have created a method of purifying uranium.

WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S APPROVAL, all that nuclear waste was dumped in Coldwater Creek just north of Bridgeton, Weldon Springs just across the Missouri River, and a bunch of it was piled in Bridgeton, which later became the West Lake Landfill - now owned and managed by Republic Services.

Over the years, residents surrounding Coldwater Creek started developing rare cancers. People were shocked to learn of this as they attended their class reunions. It got to the point where residents started tracking this, and the hotspots for all of these cancers were all around the creek kids used to play in. To this day, nothing has been done about it, despite soil samples showing high radioactivity in people's yards and high readings of contamination being taken INSIDE homes.

West Lake Landfill made national news when a smoldering underground "fire" was discovered, and over the last few years, it has crept closer and closer to the mountain of radioactive waste. There is NO barrier stopping the fire from reaching this stuff, and the EPA has continually done pretty much nothing but stonewall residents' concern. My parents still live in Bridgeton, and when we cross the Missouri River to visit them, the stench hits you pretty hard. Property values continue to sink in the area, and my high school alma mater has dad to draft up emergency procedures just in case the fire should reach the radioactive waste and poison the air.

HBO recently premiered a documentary focused on both Coldwater Creek and West Lake. You can watch it for FREE right HERE: https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/atomic-homefront



15 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's rather scary. How big of an area will be affected if the fire reaches the waste? It could be devastating.

Jay Noel said...

Alex: No one really knows. If the wind is blowing east, it will travel across the Mississippi River into Illinois. If there was an earthquake, it could cause liquifaction, and that radioactive soil could flow into the Missouri River. That would be catastrophic, as the Missouri joins the Mississippi. That would mean radioactive contamination from here all the way down into the Gulf of Mexico.

Morgan C said...

I have been to Weldon Springs and we took the hike to the top of the mini manmade mountain housing the nuclear waste. As we walked through the area, I thought about how much radiation the wildlife and vegetation had been exposed to. If I pulled a Geiger Counter out, what would the readings be? The museum there had information, but not the information I was seeking regarding the site. Shady gov business going on there.

Let's hope that the New Madrid fault doesn't give us a shake or shout anytime soon. Most of the earthquakes we are feeling right now (in Kansas City) is because of the fracking in Oklahoma.

I would love to read your book when it is available. I am going to check out that documentary. Thank you for posting it.

Pat Hatt said...

That is rather pathetic and then some that they do absolutely nothing. All for the almighty $$$$. If that fire goes, they'll blame everyone but themselves.

Congrats finishing your latest.

Pat Dilloway said...

Yikes! Unfortunately we're heading back to those times when people dumped toxic waste any old place. Out of sight, out of mind, right? One of my Facebook "friends" has been writing a novel about the nuclear testing in New Mexico, where there was plenty more short-sightedness.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There's a town in Arkansas that wasn't too far from where I lived that was one big toxic dump. It's scary how many places like that there are in the US.

Melissa said...

One of these days very soon, I'm going to move to the country, very far away from cities and pollution.

Good luck with your book. Love the cover.

Loni Townsend said...

Eek, that is scary, but woot for finishing your writing! That's awesome!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I wonder why I haven't heard of this before now? I must be out of touch, yet I heard so much about the Flint water crisis. It's weird how some news just explodes.

Maurice Mitchell said...

That is just crazy. It’s hard to believe something like that can really happen. Sorry your family had to deal with that Jay. Thanks for shining a light in the darkness

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