Assuming that all landfills with dangerous radioactive waste are the same can lead to dangerous actions, and this is why.
West Lake Landfill, which is one of several sites in the mid-west, especially in the St. Louis area, has never been shown to be a threat to public health. Although it does contain legacy waste from the Manhattan Project that was illegally dumped here back in the 70s, the landfill is one of the most carefully monitored sites of its kind in the United States, with no agency, whether federal, state or local, ever finding evidence that the site is a risk to public health.
On the other hand, there is Coldwater Creek, which has been found to threaten the health of the public. Appropriately, the US Army Corps of Engineers has worked responsibly to remediate the sites associated with Coldwater Creek, which includes, unfortunately, even the backyards of family homes located in the area.
Some activists, perhaps purposely, have confused the two sites. There is an organization called “Coldwater Creek- Just the Facts.” They have published maps and information connected to the illnesses that have sadly been related to this site. However, because of the progress made by the advocates who have worked hard to clean up Coldwater Creek and its environs and help the residents negatively affected by this particular site, an incorrect comparison has been made between Coldwater and Westlake. Some activists have even used photos data about illnesses from Coldwater falsely stating that the data was from Westlake. This misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the situation has prevented the proper remediation of Westlake Landfill.
The important take-away is that there is not one solution that will work for all types of dump sites for the country’s legacy nuclear waste. In the case of Coldwater Creek remediation required the removal of contaminated soil. In Westlake disturbing the soil is actually more dangerous. According to the EPA, a permanent cap covering up the site is the safest and fastest remediation.
It is logical that each landfill needs its own solution. An excellent solution has been found for Westlake, which is very different for the correct remediation for Coldwater Creek. Many experts have decided the best course of action is capping. Those standing in the way of such actions should take a careful look at the harm they are causing, and join with those who have studied the issue and are working to bring this unfortunate issue to its best possible conclusion.