From 1942 to 1973, uranium processing for the federal government’s early nuclear weapons program and related activities were conducted in St. Louis City and North St. Louis County. The Manhattan Engineer District, and later the Atomic Energy Commission, both predecessors of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) were responsible for these activities. The processing and management practices conducted during that time resulted in soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater contamination.
In 1974, the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) was created to identify, investigate, clean up and manage sites that were part of the nation’s early atomic energy and weapons program. The St. Louis Downtown Site (SLDS), the St. Louis Airport Site (SLAPS), the Hazelwood Interim Storage Site and former Futura Co. (HISS/FUTURA) and properties contaminated in association with these sites were designated for FUSRAP in the St. Louis area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been in charge of FUSRAP management since 1997, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) providing primary regulatory oversight.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Role
The department's Federal Facilities Section provides oversight for investigating and cleaning up hazardous chemical and radiological substances at federal facilities, including the St. Louis FUSRAP sites. The department's Federal Facilities Section also provides guidance that ensures site activities follow state and federal environmental laws and regulations. The department is coordinating with EPA and may provide independent oversight as needed.
Until 1997, DOE led the cleanup of three areas (SLDS, SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA), as part of its responsibility for the cleanup of nationwide FUSRAP sites. In October 1997, Congress transferred FUSRAP from DOE to the USACE. Since that transition, the St. Louis FUSRAP sites have fallen under the cleanup responsibility of USACE. After completing the excavations of FUSRAP, the responsibility for tracking areas that did not meet cleanup goals will revert to DOE Office of Legacy Management.
In addition to the three St. Louis FUSRAP sites that were the original source of contamination, over 100 vicinity properties near the St. Louis FUSRAP sites were potentially contaminated by historic storage and material handling practices at the three sites.
Contaminants of Concern
Both radiological and non-radiological contaminants of concern are found at the St. Louis FUSRAP sites. The main contaminants of concern are radiological and consist of uranium, radium, thorium and their decay products. Other non-radiological contaminants of concern include heavy metals at some St. Louis FUSRAP sites.
Can the FUSRAP Sites be Redeveloped?
It is important to note that uranium, radium and thorium are chemical elements, and all occur naturally in the soil to some extent. Some areas of the St. Louis FUSRAP sites contain levels of radioactivity above levels that allow the land to be used for any possible use. These areas are not believed to pose an immediate health risk, given current land uses. However, these areas will remain radioactive for thousands of years and long-term health risks could increase to unacceptable levels if how the land is used changes, or if potentially contaminated materials are excavated without proper protection and handling methods. Documents or agreements, called records of decision, require each site to be cleaned up to health-based risk levels acceptable for both the current and projected future land uses, including residential, recreational and industrial. If a property cannot be cleaned up to these levels, the property must have land use restrictions placed on it.
USACE sponsors annual public meetings or availability sessions to share information regarding the status of sampling and cleanup with members of the community. The department and other regulatory agencies associated with the St. Louis FUSRAP sites are usually invited to attend these annual events. The USACE is also required to hold a special public meeting before issuing major decision documents.
What’s Been Done
The USACE has removed more than 1.27 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and material and transported it to permitted out-of-state facilities.
Cleanup efforts are continuing for the St. Louis FUSRAP sites and its vicinity properties. Once cleanup is complete, oversight of any property use restrictions will be turned over to the DOE Office of Legacy Management.
Contamination that cannot be cleaned up, typically found under roads, buildings, railroads and other permanent structures, will be addressed in one of three ways:
- Sampling showing cleanup requirements are met
- Performing additional soil removal to meet cleanup requirements
- Property use restrictions
The St. Louis Downtown Site (SLDS) is located in an industrial area on the eastern edge of St. Louis, along the Mississippi River. The property is about 11 miles southeast of the St. Louis Airport Site (SLAPS). From 1942 until 1957, uranium was processed for the federal government’s nuclear weapons program at Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, a 45-acre chemical manufacturing facility. The SLDS is made up of about 210 acres of land, which includes Mallinckrodt Inc. (formerly Mallinckrodt Chemical Works) and 38 surrounding vicinity properties. More information on SLDS properties can be found on the USACE, St. Louis District's FUSRAP webpage.
The federal government’s uranium extraction operations at Mallinckrodt Inc. resulted in wastes from the process, including radium, thorium and uranium, spreading to the surrounding area, affecting SLDS and its vicinity properties. Uranium processing ended at Mallinckrodt in 1957.
Clean up activities began in some Mallinckrodt areas between 1995 to 1998. The final cleanup remedy for accessible soil (soil that can be reached for cleanup) at SLDS is outlined in SLDS' record of decision, dated October 1998. The final remedy for accessible contamination at SLDS is removal and disposal.
The uranium process could potentially have also contaminated groundwater in the area. Therefore, long-term monitoring is also required for groundwater beneath the site. If groundwater contamination is detected, a groundwater assessment and remedy may need to be selected.
Any remaining contamination at SLDS properties will be addressed in one of three ways:
- sampling showing cleanup requirements are met
- performing additional soil removal to meet cleanup requirements
- as explained in additional record(s) of decision for the remaining areas.
Once active cleanup is complete, oversight of any property use restrictions will be turned over to DOE.
The St. Louis Airport Site (SLAPS) is approximately 15 miles from downtown St. Louis and immediately north of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. SLAPS is a 21.7-acre tract of land bounded by the Norfolk and Western Railroad and Banshee Road on the south, Coldwater Creek on the west and McDonnell Boulevard and former recreational fields on the north and east.
From 1946 to 1957, radioactive uranium processing residues from St. Louis Downtown Site (SLDS) were stored and accumulated at SLAPS and contaminated the site. Some of the materials were stored in bulk on open ground or pits, while others were stored in drums and either stacked or buried on-site. The property was fenced to prevent the public from entering and limit direct radiation exposure.
In 1966 and 1967, most of the stored uranium residues were sold to a private entity for recycling, removed from SLAPS and taken to HISS/FUTURA. However, contamination remained at the SLAPS site. In October 1989, EPA placed SLAPS on the National Priorities List (NPL), confirming the need for additional site investigation for threats to human health and the environment. In 1990, DOE and EPA signed an agreement that established an environmental review process and schedule for the cleanup of SLAPS and other St. Louis FUSRAP sites. In 1997, congress transferred execution of FUSRAP from DOE to USACE. The USACE removed 5,100 cubic yards of radiologically contaminated materials immediately next to Coldwater Creek, at the west end of SLAPS. In 1998, the USACE took action to control surface water and the spread of contamination off-site. A rail spur was built to allow for rapidly shipping contaminated material. Excavation and cleanup at SLAPS continued intermittently until 2005.
The 2005 record of decision for North County Sites details the final remedy for all North County sites. The record of decision addressed not only SLAPS, but also included HISS/FUTURA, North County vicinity properties and Coldwater Creek. The final remedy consisted of excavating to achieve cleanup goals, groundwater monitoring to show groundwater was not impacting Coldwater Creek surface water and institutional controls on any inaccessible contamination. The record of decision also requires that all accessible contaminated soil and material that can be reached for cleanup, be disposed off-site at a facility permitted to accept the contaminated material.
Cleanup of SLAPS continued after the record of decision was adopted. From 1997 to 2006, more than 600,000 cubic yards of accessible radiologically contaminated soil and material were removed from SLAPS.
Any remaining contamination at SLAPS will be addressed with property use restrictions. Once cleanup is complete, oversight of any property use restrictions will be turned over to DOE Office of Legacy Management. The rail spur at SLAPS will be removed after all North County excavation work is complete.
The Hazelwood Interim Storage Site and former Futura Co. (HISS/FUTURA) site is located in northern St. Louis County, within the city limits of Hazelwood and Berkeley, at 9170 and 9200 Latty Ave. These sites are approximately 3.2 miles northeast of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport control tower and about half a mile northeast of the St. Louis Airport Site (SLAPS).
The HISS/FUTURA site and surrounding properties were contaminated through historic storage and transportation practices associated with radioactive materials and residue, and the spread of contamination from stockpiled material by rain and wind.
In 1966, ore residues and process wastes containing uranium and radium stored at SLAPS were purchased by the Continental Mining and Milling Co. and moved to HISS/FUTURA. These materials were produced at the St. Louis Downtown Site (SLDS) from 1942 to 1957. In 1966, residues on the properties included a variety of materials, totaling over 115,000 tons of material containing over 68 tons of uranium. Over the next three years, some of the material was shipped to Colorado for processing. In December 1970, an estimated 18,700 tons of material remained at the properties.
In April 1974, then-owner Cotter Corp. informed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that some of the remaining material had been shipped in mid-1973 to Colorado and the remaining material, leached barium sulfate, had been mixed with 12 to18 inches of soil and transported to West Lake Landfill, located in Bridgeton, Missouri. Cleanup at this landfill is not a part of the FUSRAP program.
Following removal of the material piles at HISS/FUTURA, the owner of the FUTURA site demolished one building, excavated portions of the western half of the property, paved certain areas and erected several new buildings. This resulted in contaminated material, which was stored at the HISS site. Contaminated materials from other cleanups along Latty Avenue were added to the pile. By 1985, approximately 32,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and material was stored at HISS.
In 1989, EPA placed the HISS/FUTURA properties on the National Priorities List, requiring cleanup to proceed under the guidelines of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. In 1990, DOE and the EPA signed an agreement that established an environmental review procedure and schedule for cleanup of HISS/FUTURA and nearby properties.
The USACE’s 2005 record of decision for North County Sites details the final remedy for all North County sites. The record of decision addressed not only HISS/FUTURA, but also SLAPS, North County vicinity properties and Coldwater Creek. The final remedy consisted of excavating materials to achieve cleanup goals. All accessible contaminated soil and material that could be reached for cleanup were disposed off-site at a facility permitted to accept the contaminated material. Starting in 2008, the USACE cleaned up 53,800 cubic yards of contaminated soil at HISS and 20,950 cubic yards at FUTURA. This work was completed and documented in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Once cleanup is completed, any remaining contamination above cleanup goals will be addressed with property use restrictions and managed by DOE Office of Legacy Management.
North County VPs
The North County vicinity properties (VPs) consist of 96 individually identified properties near the St. Louis Airport Site (SLAPS) and Hazelwood Interim Storage Site and former Futura Co. (HISS/FUTURA), within the broad general boundaries of Lindbergh Blvd. to the west, Pershall Road to the north, St. Louis Lambert International Airport to the south, and N. Hanley Road to the east.
Some North County vicinity properties were contaminated directly from wind and rain spreading materials from the source areas at SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA. Other North County vicinity properties were suspected or known to be contaminated from hauling contaminated materials around the area in open top trucks, which left the materials exposed and vulnerable to wind and rain erosion. A history of the materials that contaminated the North County vicinity properties is discussed in the SLDS, SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA sections.
The major sources that contributed to the contamination of North County vicinity properties, including SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA, were cleaned up in 2009, 2013 and 2014.A history of the USACE's involvement in FUSRAP and the 2005 Record of Decision for North County Sites is included in the SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA sections. With the source material removed, investigation and cleanup of vicinity properties is continuing.
Additional investigation may identify additional areas that require cleanup. After cleanup, any remaining contamination above cleanup goals at North County vicinity properties will be addressed with property use restrictions. Once cleanup is complete, oversight of any property use restrictions will be turned over to DOE's Office of Legacy Management.
Coldwater Creek is located in North St. Louis County, Missouri, and flows through several commercial and residential neighborhoods and parks before reaching the Missouri River. Coldwater Creek, north of Pershall Road to the confluence with the Missouri River, is considered a single vicinity property. The USACE identifies specific areas within and near the 10-year flood plain of Coldwater Creek as Coldwater Creek Properties.
Coldwater Creek Properties were contaminated by runoff that moved contamination from the source areas at the St. Louis Airport Site (SLAPS) and Hazelwood Interim Storage Site and former Futura Co. (HISS/FUTURA) sites into the creek and onto its banks and flood plain. A history of these contaminated materials is discussed in SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA sections. Historically, contamination moved down the creek and deposited downstream in the banks and flood plain, especially before the cleanup of SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA. This resulted in hundreds of properties requiring investigation and possible cleanup.
In 2013 and 2014, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) performed cancer inquiries in response to community concerns related to Coldwater Creek. In April 2019, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released a final public health assessment report, which is available on ATSDR's Coldwater Creek webpage. The assessment was conducted to identify potential exposures to FUSRAP contamination, estimate increased risk of harmful health effects from identified exposure and recommend actions to lessen any identified health impacts.
The major sources that contributed to the contamination of Coldwater Creek Properties, including SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA, were cleaned up in 2009, 2013 and 2014. A history of the USACE's involvement in FUSRAP and the 2005 record of decision for North County Sites is included in the SLAPS and HISS/FUTURA sections. With the source material removed, investigation and cleanup of vicinity properties is continuing.
Additional investigation may identify additional areas that require cleanup. After cleanup, any remaining contamination above cleanup goals at Coldwater Creek Properties will be addressed with property use restrictions. Once cleanup is complete, oversight of any property use restrictions will be turned over to DOE's Office of Legacy Management.