Army Corps to Coldwater Creek residents: One park clean, more work to come | St. Louis Public Radio

Army Corps to Coldwater Creek residents: One park clean, more work to come

Feb 17, 2016

A north St. Louis County park is now clean of radioactive material from the nearby contaminated Coldwater Creek, now that remediation by the Army Corps of Engineers is complete. 

Representatives from the Corps' Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) reported remediation of St. Cin Park in Hazelwood is completed and work to restore the park has begun. It was the biggest update given Wednesday night at a public meeting at the James J. Eagan Civic Center in Florissant.

"We're thrilled that that remediation is complete," said Jenell Wright of the citizens' group FUSRAP Oversight Committee, which hosted the meeting. "It was pretty extensive, and they did a great job, and now they are just getting the park back to useable condition for the children to play in here as spring is starting soon."

Health physicist for the Army Corps of Engineers Jon Rankins discusses updates to FUSRAP's remediation projects with a crowd at the James J. Eagen Civic Center in Florissant.
Credit Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

The Corps' told the crowd of about 300 residents that it will now begin work to clean up radioactive material Duchesne Park in Florissant. Though FUSRAP said the contamination, that is a minimum of six inches below the surface, poses no health risks as it's positioned now, the city has decided to close the park during the process. 

After that project is completed, FUSRAP will begin clean-up on several previously identified private properties on Palm Drive along Coldwater Creek. These locations include residential and an Metropolitan Sewer District property adjacent to the creek that are within the 10-year floodplain. 

Wright said residents will need to stay updated during that process.

"They're taking down utility poles, and, in some places, they're going to have to build new roads to facilitate the clean-up, so it's really important people know what's going on because it will affect their daily lives," she said.

The Corps also said it is has taken more than 8,500 samples to date along a 3.4-mile stretch of the creek, which it reports is "more than 90 percent free of North County (Record of Decision) contaminants of concern." It also reported that it found "fewer elevated levels" as testing went further downstream.

But despite the extensive testing, Corps representatives did not report any additional contaminated private properties, though testing continues along the creek.

"We will not be surprised when new locations are named probably in the forthcoming months, they are doing so much testing and we fully expect there will be new locations," Wright said. 

Our original story, as of Feb. 16: 

Representatives from two federal agencies will offer updates at a community update meeting Wednesday night on testing and clean-up along the contaminated Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County and a resident health assessment survey.

Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it found low levels of radioactive contamination at about a dozen private homes and businesses along the creek. That includes several homes and an apartment complex near Palm Drive in Hazelwood; other locations were not identified at a December meeting.

The Corps' Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program, or FUSRAP, is remediating St. Cin Park in Hazelwood, a process which was expected to be completed this month. At the conclusion of that project, FUSRAP said it would then clean up Duchesne Park in Florissant, followed by a property owned by the St. Louis Archdiocese behind St. Ferdinand cemetery.

Coldwater Creek was contaminated by radioactive waste from the production of nuclear weapons during the 1940s and 50s. Rain, flooding and groundwater carried the waste to the creek from several sites in the St. Louis area where it had been dumped. 

This Google map shows the stretch of Coldwater Creek that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is testing for radiation, as of December 2015. The area shaded in pink is in Hazelwood, the area in gray is in Florissant.
Credit Google Maps

Officials previously said the radioactive soil at the contaminated sites is from six inches to five feet below the surface and is not an immediate health risk, so long as people don't dig. Corps engineers are expected to provide an update to remediation work done so far and discuss additional soil testing conducted along a three-mile stretch along the creek.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is also expected to provide an update on its work on a public health assessment. The agency announced in November it would survey residents about their contact with the creek, exposure to hazardous material, and health problems they have experienced. 

The public will have the chance to question representatives from FUSRAP, ATSDR, and the St. Louis County public health department during the meeting, hosted by the citizens' group FUSRAP Oversight Committee. It starts at 6 p.m. at the James J Eagan Civic Center in Florissant. 

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephlecci.