By: Kayleigh Coughlin, Communications Intern
St. Louis, Missouri families are feeling hopeful following the commencement of the EPA’s long-awaited clean-up at the West Lake Landfill Superfund Site at Bridgeton. Dawn Chapman and Karen Nickel, community activists and co-founders of Just Moms STL, a non-profit organization aiming to educate the St. Louis community about the negative health impacts of radioactive waste at West Lake, have been campaigning for the clean-up since 2013.
“To see this positive result”, said Chapman, “I guess I can say makes the bruises hurt less”.
In 1973, radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project, a secret U.S. military project created in 1942 to produce the first nuclear weapon, was illegally dumped in the West Lake Landfill and remained there quietly until 2010, when a fire at the site emitted a foul odor, exposing the waste. In 2018, the EPA proposed a partial removal plan following years of campaigning by Just Moms STL and St. Louis community members. In the proposed plan, the EPA promised at least 70% of the radioactivity would be removed over a 5 year period. Last month, the EPA set foot on the site and officially began the clean-up process. The sight offered relief for St. Louis’ community members like mothers Chapman and Nickel.
In response to the clean-up, Chapman said, “Seeing EPA workers working on the landfill is proof of what moms can really do”. The success at West Lake is proof that small communities working together can accomplish big things. Now that tangible progress has been made at West Lake, Just Moms STL is expanding their outreach by helping other leaders combat environmental injustices in their communities.
Please visit http://www.stlradwastelegacy.com to learn more about Just Moms STL’s work and get involved with their campaigns.
If you’re interested in hearing more about Just Moms STL and their campaigning journey, click here to watch a Zoom recording of CHEJ’s Living Room Leadership Event from July 8, 2020: a conversation with Dawn Chapman and Karen Nickel.
By Gregory Kolen II. Environmental justice is an issue that affects everyone, but those who bear the brunt of it are often the most vulnerable