Cleanup Of Manhattan Project Site In Downtown St. Louis Nears Completion

By on March 5, 2019

From St. Louis Public Radio:  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is close to finishing its removal of World War II-era radioactive waste from the Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals plant in downtown St. Louis.

Uranium, radium and thorium leached into the land around the plant during the 1940s and 50s when Mallinckrodt Chemical Works manufactured uranium to create atomic bombs for the Manhattan Project. The Corps of Engineers has been removing the contaminated soil since 1998.

Six decades ago, the uranium processors simply dumped waste down the drain, said Susan Adams, the project engineer for the clean-up efforts at the site.

“This was all happening before the clean water act was enacted, unfortunately that was normal practice at the time,” Adams said.

The ground then became contaminated through leaky sewer systems and flooding, she said.

Waste from the same project was shipped to north St. Louis County, where it contaminated groundwater and is blamed for cancer in some residents.

Unlike the residential areas there, the downtown St. Louis site is industrial. Mallinckrodt still sits on the site, along with several other industrial companies.

“The majority of our large digs are complete,” Adams said. “We’re now focusing on areas that are harder to reach, take extra engineering controls, more precise digging.”

The cleanup of the downtown property likely will be finished in five years, Adams said. Experts say clean-up efforts in north St. Louis County could take another 20 years.

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