Toxic Waste | St. Louis Public Radio

Toxic Waste

Artist Allana Ross and participants of her toxic waste site tours outside of the Bridgeton Landfill in September 2019.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Before a group of young adults embarked on a tour of toxic waste sites in St. Louis, artist Allana Ross asked if anyone wanted a respirator. 

Twice a year since 2017, Ross dresses up as a park ranger and invites people to follow her on a “Toxic Mounds Tour” to locations in St. Louis County that have been contaminated by toxic waste. 

Some stops along the tour are sites where federal officials are cleaning up radioactive waste, like Coldwater Creek in Hazelwood. Others, like the Weldon Spring site in St. Charles, which contains nuclear waste, were converted into parks. 

This photo of the former Carter Carburetor plant was taken in Aug. 2011, prior to the start of the cleanup.
File Photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

After six years of building demolitions and excavations, workers have finished cleaning up the Carter Carburetor Superfund site in north St. Louis. 

The site, the former location of an oil and diesel carburetor manufacturing plant, closed in 1984. Nearly a decade later, the Environmental Protection Agency included it in the federal Superfund program, which investigates and cleans up hazardous waste sites. It left behind high levels of heavy metals and toxic chemicals, like PCBs, that are known to cause cancer.

Marilyn Leistner stands on the "town mound" at Route 66 State Park, where the homes, businesses and churches of Times Beach were buried.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Marilyn Leistner, the last mayor of Times Beach, gazed at a grass-covered mound, the size of four football fields, where the remains of her town are buried. 

“Everything that was near and dear to the people in this community. All the houses and the city equipment. Everything that they didn't take with them that was left in their homes is buried here,” she said, softly.

The “town mound” isn’t in the brochures, but it is the most unusual landmark at Route 66 State Park, which opened 20 years ago on the site of Times Beach.

An art installation in Granite City showing casts of driftwood from flood events.
Meghan Grubb

In an industrial, desolate block of Granite City, artists are presenting videos, photography and sculptures that depict environmental problems in the St. Louis area.

The 18 pieces that comprise Art + Landscape STL are on display the Granite City Art and Design District, a converted area of former retail and outdoor spaces along State Street. Some works, like a ring of stacked sandbags, allude to flooding along the Mississippi River.

A table of objects that include a map of where radioactive Manhattan Project waste had been dumped in north St. Louis County refers to toxic-waste sites. The exhibits will be on display for the next four weekends.