HBO’s 'Atomic Homefront' explores the citizen activist movement around nuclear waste in St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

HBO’s 'Atomic Homefront' explores the citizen activist movement around nuclear waste in St. Louis

Jul 18, 2017

"Atomic Homefront" director Rebecca Cammisa grew up in New York and had long been familiar with environmental remediation efforts there before she first came to St. Louis to shoot a film about the legacy of nuclear waste here.

Her documentary, which was acquired by HBO, and will be screened tonight at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, charts the history of atomic waste in St. Louis associated with the Manhattan Project and the citizen activist movement here to have it dealt with.

“I always thought the government, when dealing with the Manhattan Project and atomic bomb waste, dealt with it properly,” Cammisa told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “Why would they ever dump it or leave it unchecked? That’s what shocked me, that the government would be so lackadaisical with the most toxic waste on the planet.”

St. Louis was chosen as a site to process and enrich uranium during the development of the atomic bomb. It was moved around the region, from Lambert Airport to Laddy Avenue, where it sat exposed and drained into Coldwater Creek, which is undergoing remediation currently. In addition, 47,000 tons of contaminated waste was then dumped illegally into an unlined quarry at the West Lake landfill in 1973.

Residents of these areas have reported heightened incidences of cancer and abnormal diseases.

“Not only did the Coldwater Creek residents deal with this contamination but now, what is happening at the landfill, is affecting a whole new group of people,” Cammisa said.

She uses interviews, archival research, footage from community meetings and more to detail the story of how nuclear waste in St. Louis from the 1940s is drastically changing the lives of St. Louisans who live near that waste today.

What’s missing from the story? Government agencies and private companies, who Cammisa said refused to be interviewed.

“When we first came here to make this film, my first thought was: why is this not a national story? This has huge relevance for the rest of this country,” Cammisa said.

Listen as Cammisa discusses the documentary:

Related Event

What: Cinema St. Louis 2017 St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase Presents "Atomic Homefront"
When: Tuesday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd.. St. Louis, MO 63130
More information.

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