Is there Something In The Water? Homes Near St. Louis County Creek Being Tested For Radioactive Contamination

Marissa Newby
8 min readMar 7, 2024

A potential and silent health threat lurks beneath the soil of several homes situated near a St. Louis County creek. Many of these residences are presently being scrutinized for radioactive contamination, a potential fallout from a haunting chapter of Cold War history. This situation has sparked an urgent need for comprehensive testing, as the health and safety of residents are at stake. Experts are working diligently to determine the extent of the contamination and identify potential sources. Through this investigation, they hope to provide clarity and peace of mind to those affected, while also raising awareness about the lasting consequences of past actions and the need for testing, due to the possible health risks associated with exposure to radioactive materials.

The crux of this issue originates from the Coldwater Creek area’s historical role in uranium processing during World War II and the subsequent Cold War period. The legacy of this era appears to be coming back to haunt the present as residues from nuclear waste have been found in several residential areas near the creek.

In this article, we will delve into:

  1. The intricate backstory of nuclear contamination in St. Louis
  2. Its potential health and environmental implications
  3. Its impact on affected communities
  4. Government and corporate accountability
  5. Current remediation efforts and the road to recovery

It is our hope that through this exploration, readers will gain a deeper understanding of:

  • The significance of ongoing testing for radioactive contamination
  • Why it is crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of residents living close to Coldwater Creek.

The History of Nuclear Contamination in St. Louis

In the heart of St. Louis County runs Coldwater Creek, a waterway that carries more than just water. This creek has become synonymous with nuclear contamination, a dark legacy traced back to the Cold War era.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plays an instrumental role in addressing this issue. Tasked with investigating and remediating nuclear contamination in St. Louis, the Corps has been focusing on areas around Coldwater Creek. Their mission involves soil testing in residential properties near the creek, aiming to detect any radioactive materials.

Origins of Nuclear Contamination

The origins of nuclear contamination in the area can be linked to uranium processing activities during World War II and the Cold War. During these times, St. Louis was actively involved in nuclear weapons production and defense efforts. Nuclear waste from these operations ended up in places like Lambert Airport and eventually found its way into Coldwater Creek.

Impact on Residents

This history presents a troubling reality for residents living near the creek. The initial findings of radioactive contamination have indeed raised serious concerns for public health and safety. Soil tests conducted by federal agencies pointed out that contamination was present, mostly in homes’ backyards, not front yards.

The discovery of radioactive contamination in residential areas is an unsettling revelation that triggers questions about long-term health risks for those living close to the creek.

Health Risks and Environmental Dangers Posed by Radioactive Contamination

Radioactive materials in the environment can seriously harm people who are exposed to them for long periods. Living close to contaminated areas like Coldwater Creek makes it more likely for individuals to develop certain types of cancer, such as leukemia and thyroid cancer, because of ongoing radiation exposure. There have also been reports of ongoing health problems like autoimmune disorders, although it can be difficult to prove that these issues are directly caused by the radiation.

The impact of nuclear waste on the environment goes beyond just human health. It also affects entire ecosystems in the following ways:

  • Aquatic Life: Radioactive particles can build up in sediment, which disrupts the homes of fish and other water-dwelling creatures.
  • Soil Contamination: The quality of soil is compromised, which can harm plants and, in turn, the animals that rely on those plants for food.
  • Disruption of the Food Chain: Radioactive substances may enter the food chain through affected crops and livestock, creating a cycle of contamination that has widespread effects.

The contamination of Coldwater Creek shows how nuclear waste can harm an entire ecosystem. It’s not just about the water; it’s about how these harmful particles spread throughout every part of the natural world around us.

1. The Devastating Toll on Affected Communities

Living in close proximity to Coldwater Creek, communities have had to endure the unanticipated socio-economic impacts of radioactive contamination. A notable example is Florissant, where Lambert Airport’s nuclear waste ended up in the nearby creek. This pollution altered the lives of many residents, disrupting their everyday routines and casting a shadow over their futures.

The effects were not limited to potential health risks. In some instances, public spaces like schools were affected, leading to significant disruptions in local education systems. Florissant grade school is a case in point.

Florissant grade school, an institution that once thrived with learning and youthful energy, had to shut its doors due to contamination concerns. The closure was more than just an administrative decision; it symbolized the loss of a safe space for students to learn and grow.

This shutdown impacted families’ lives in several ways:

  • Students had to be relocated to other schools, disrupting their academic progress and social relationships.
  • Parents faced increased stress and uncertainty about their children’s education and safety.
  • The community lost a valuable institution that fostered learning and social development.

Such instances underscore the profound impact of radioactive contamination on communities near Coldwater Creek. It serves as a stark reminder that environmental hazards can permeate all aspects of life, from health to education, leaving indelible marks on affected communities.

2. Government Negligence and Corporate Accountability

The story of St. Louis’ radioactive contamination crisis doesn’t stop at the creek’s edge. It expands into a labyrinth of government negligence and corporate irresponsibility.

Investigations have shed light on the mishandling of the crisis by both government authorities and private companies involved in nuclear operations. For starters, federal agencies and companies were aware of the health risks, spills, and improperly stored contaminants in the St. Louis area. Astonishingly, these warnings were largely ignored.

“Government negligence is not just about failure to act, it’s about ignoring the potential consequences that could harm innocent lives.”

A beacon amongst these disheartening revelations has been Sen. Josh Hawley. Standing up for the rights of radiation-exposed residents, he has been vocal in his criticism of how authorities handled the situation. With an aim to address past wrongs, he proposed a compensation plan for illnesses linked to radiation exposure.

Hawley argues that homes along the creek should have been tested much earlier, and community advocates like Just Moms STL echo this sentiment.

“The need for accountability is not just about assigning blame; it’s about making sure such mistakes are not repeated in future.”

While these investigations are a step towards unveiling truths, they also underscore the importance of holding those responsible accountable. The road to recovery is long, but with unwavering resolve and sustained advocacy, justice can be sought for affected communities.

Testing, Remediation, and the Road to Recovery

The current focus of nuclear contamination mitigation in St. Louis revolves around two essential aspects: comprehensive testing and effective remediation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has tested soil samples at six properties near Coldwater Creek, with preliminary results expected soon. If contamination is discovered, plans for remediation will be initiated, though specific details remain uncertain.

Yet, this approach has been met with skepticism and demands for wider testing from local community organizations. One such group leading the charge is Just Moms STL, who question the Corps’ assurances and call for broader scrutiny of residential areas near the creek.

Their call to action underscores the importance of community activism in this ongoing crisis. Comprised of concerned mothers-turned-activists, Just Moms STL advocates not only for comprehensive testing but also for transparency from authorities regarding their remediation plans.

Their efforts are characterized by:

  • Persistent demand for wider and more thorough testing
  • Advocacy for the rights of affected residents
  • Holding government authorities accountable for their actions

Remediation efforts continue, albeit with challenges such as potential distrust from residents and logistical complications in cleaning up contaminated sites. However, these endeavors reflect a vital commitment to restoring safety and peace of mind among impacted communities in St. Louis.

This journey towards recovery is a testament to resilience amid adversity, highlighting how collective action can influence policy decisions and push for change in the face of bureaucratic inertia.

Continued Vigilance: The Need for Long-Term Monitoring

St. Louis continues to face challenges in dealing with the effects of past nuclear contamination. This means that ongoing monitoring and surveillance are essential. Regular check-ups are crucial to make sure that the remains of past activities don’t pose a current danger to public health and the environment.

Cades Cove Subdivision: A Point of Concern

One specific area of concern is the Cades Cove subdivision. There are two main issues here:

  1. Fill Dirt Issue: During construction, dirt from Coldwater Creek was used as fill in the Cades Cove subdivision. This dirt may have been contaminated with radioactive materials.
  2. Potential Contamination: This raises questions about how long nuclear pollutants can last in the environment and whether they can come back to the surface. If these contaminants are still present, it could be a serious problem for the people living in these homes.

The need for long-term monitoring goes beyond just fixing immediate problems. It’s about making sure we’re prepared for any future risks that might come up from sources of contamination we didn’t know about or thought were taken care of. This includes situations like what’s happening in Cades Cove.

By sticking to a strict schedule of monitoring, authorities can show the public that they’re taking proactive steps to keep everyone safe. This kind of watchfulness helps build trust between communities and the people who are responsible for managing environmental health risks.

In our next section, we’ll look at how residents and officials can team up to make sure that St. Louis is heading in the right direction when it comes to recovery and resilience.


The quest for a safer future in St. Louis County demands unwavering vigilance, particularly in the shadow of Coldwater Creek’s legacy of radioactive contamination. Radioactive contamination testing near St. Louis County creek is not just a precautionary measure; it’s an urgent necessity to safeguard the health of residents and restore confidence in the environment.

Residents rightfully expect transparency and commitment from those in power when it comes to addressing such critical issues. The path forward must be paved with:

  1. Sustained Testing Efforts: Ensuring that every potential risk is identified and mitigated through regular and comprehensive testing.
  2. Accountable Governance: Public officials and agencies must be responsive and responsible for the welfare of the communities they serve, especially in crisis management.
  3. Adequate Support for Impacted Communities: Providing resources, healthcare access, and compensation where needed to those affected by past negligence.

The resilience of St. Louis communities, propelled by active groups like Just Moms STL, mirrors the broader narrative of individuals taking a stand to demand a safe living environment. As remediation plans unfold and new chapters begin, the collective aim remains clear: enduring dedication to making certain that no stone is left unturned in protecting current and future generations from the invisible threat lurking within their own backyards.



Marissa Newby

Blogger focusing on Emergency Management, Safety, CBRNE matters and Conflict