Posted by: Green Knight | May 9, 2013

Farcebook Follies

St. Louis has a long history with matters military. A lot of big government contractors, like General Dynamics, McDonnell-Douglas (now Boeing), and so forth. The Air National Guard up at the airport. Big research facilities like Monsanto and Mallinckrodt. Major universities with medical schools. This town has always been a strategic location, going back to the days of riverboat transportation; that’s why the Union Army chased the duly elected state government out of the whole state in 1861, because they needed control of the Mississippi for the war effort.

So it’s no surprise that during World War II, this place was part of the Manhattan Project. The uranium ore for the early atomic bombs was mined mostly in New Mexico, causing longterm problems for the Navajos who mined it for dirt-cheap wages, and for their descendants who had to live near the tailings piles. The ore was sent to St. Louis to be refined, and the leftovers, low-level but still “hot,” got dumped in various locations around town. Some people will say that the waste was “illegally” dumped, but there weren’t really any existing laws or regulations at the time for that sort of thing. Some of it later got moved and disposed of elsewhere in the area in the early ’70s, but there weren’t any hardcore regulations in place for that sort of thing yet either; the waste program was in its infancy.

Flash forward. When I was a state guy, I used to inspect the place where the ore was refined. I used to inspect all the disposal sites, at a couple of which there have been anomalous “cancer clusters.” I used to live near the creek where some of the stuff was dumped, and I used to live near the roads where the stuff was hauled with no tarps on the trucks, and I used to live downwind from the landfill which is stirring up controversy 40 years after the fact, due to a not uncommon subsurface fire. There are a couple of Facebook pages on these issues, one for the landfill and one for the creek. A friend recommended that I join one of them, and I discovered the other one from posts on the first one. I signed in and have been providing scientific and safety info for, I dunno, close to a year?

I’ve been teaching radiation safety and hazardous waste cleanup for over 20 years. I sincerely feel for the people whose kids got leukemia from one of the sites, or who got appendix cancer themselves from the other one. But there are other people who are opportunists, and are trying to blame every unrelated ailment on “the radiation.” That’s where I raise the drawbridge. And I guess that’s why I got kicked off both of those Facebook pages within the last two days. Don’t kill the messenger, folks. I didn’t invent uranium.

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