St. Louisans weigh in on radioactive contamination, efforts in DC to fund victims

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WASHINGTON – A small group of St. Louisans made a trip to the nation’s capitol on Tuesday to lobby for legislation that could compensate victims of radioactive contamination.

Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley introduced legislation earlier this year to fund victims who suffered an autoimmune virus, a genetic disorder, or cancer because of radioactive contamination in the St. Louis area.

Hawley spoke on the issue in front of Congress members Tuesday, vouching to expand coverage under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act through an annual defense policy bill. Hawley claims he will vote against the defense bill before the Senate and “use every available means to slow its passage unless it includes compensation for the victims of nuclear contamination in Missouri.”

“This is a world issue, and I can tell you for me, it’s the No. 1 priority. That will be reflected in my actions in court,” said Hawley to Nexstar DC correspondent Raquel Martin ahead of Tuesday’s proceedings.

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new report surfaced earlier this year suggesting that the federal government downplayed and failed to fully investigate the risks of nuclear waste contamination that stemmed from the Manhattan Project in St. Louis County.

The issue was also brought to national attention last year when environmental investigation consultants pointed out radioactive contamination at Jana Elementary School in north St. Louis County. There are also prolonged concerns about the West Lake landfill in Bridgeton, Coldwater Creek through multiple municipalities, and a former uranium plant site in Weldon Spring.

Hawley accompanied several women from the St. Louis area on Tuesday who made the trip to explain how radioactive waste has impacted their lives along with others and why they feel Hawley’s legislation is important. These were among their comments…

Dawn Chapman

“This legislation means everything, not just to St. Louis, but our communities in the southwest,” said Chapman, co-founder of activists group Just Moms STL.

“They’re all watching right now. They’re scared. They’re afraid this one opportunity is going to go away, and they don’t understand why. Because they have been poisoned by their own government, and they’re sick.”

“Our communities were poisoned and our kids are dying. They’re watching today from their high school classrooms. They’re watching leadership make this incredible decision over the tops of their heads.”

“We know it’s a hard decision. We know it’s expensive, but we think the American citizens are worth it. We think that they paid a high price, and our kids are worth it.”

Karen Nickel

“We’re here. We’re ready to do what needs to be done. Shake the trees,” said Nickel. “We felt like we needed to be here and give support to our Senator.”

“I have a 5-year-old granddaughter who was born with a mass on her ovary, and it had to be removed when she was three weeks old. My children have been infected. I’m sick with several autoimmune diseases.”

“We have to have this pass. There are people that are in dire need of compensation because of bankruptcies and cancers. The government did this to us. It wasn’t our fault. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

Tricia Byrnes

“I have people in my area who are calling me on a daily basis. They’re just finding out about it because they now live in states all across this country,” said Byrnes, also a Missouri State Representative from St. Charles County.

“Those people who lived out in that area, living out west. They live in every state in this nation, and they all need help.”

Christen Commuso

“We are all still waiting for all of this waste to be cleaned up in our community. There is radioactaive waste sitting in backyards, school yards, parks, anywhere you can think of that goes along north county in St. Louis. It’s estimated we have to wait another 15 years before that can happen. If this can pass, that will ensure a future for our children, and the children also removed out of Jana Elementary.”

“I will say this too as a cancer survivor and community member, I have a wonderful job and insurance, but still rationing my care. Something like this will be a huge help to me and the rest of my community.”


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