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North County residents seek answers on Coldwater Creek contamination

Updated at 12:15 p.m. to revise the caption of the Hazelwood/Florissant health map.

Concerned North County residents got an opportunity last night to meet with attorneys who are involved in two lawsuits relating to radioactive contamination in Coldwater Creek.

The lawsuits allege that North County residents have developed cancers and other illnesses from exposure to radioactive waste produced by the Mallinckrodt chemical company.

Mallinckrodt, now known as Covidien, enriched uranium at a plant in downtown St. Louis during World War II.

The lawsuits claim that waste was improperly disposed of near Coldwater Creek in the 1950s, leading to the contamination.

A lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the suits, Marc Bern, says 22 types of cancer have been linked to exposure from ionizing radiation, including certain types of leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma.

"And then primary cancers of the bile ducts, brain, breast in both male and female, colon, esophagus, gallbladder, liver, ovary, pancreas, pharynx, salivary glands, small intestine, stomach, thyroid and urinary bladder," Bern said.

Bern encourages area residents who believe they have been exposed and sickened by radioactive waste in Coldwater Creek to contact one of the firms involved in the lawsuits.

The map below is, according to its description, "a map for current and previous residents of Hazelwood and Florissant, MO near Coldwater Creek to add their rough address (street or intersection) and ailments/diseases. It is helpful if you add the years you lived there, and your family name, if comfortable sharing."

Florissant native Jenell Rodden Wright is working with Northwestern University economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach to create a more detailed map of Coldwater Creek-area health problems that she says will include hundreds of cases.

View Coldwater Creek Cluster Map in a larger map

Hazelwood resident Stephanie Miller says too many people in her neighborhood have had cancer, and she's glad something's finally being done. She lives about 150 feet from Coldwater Creek, and that her basement has flooded almost every year for the past 15 years.

"Knowing all those people that have either passed away from cancer, had MS, Crohn's disease, any of those kind of autoimmune deficiencies, and cancers, that's kind of why I'm here," she said. "To help them."

A spokesperson for Covidien provided the following written statement when asked to comment on the lawsuits:

“The St. Louis Airport Site was used for disposal of demolition debris from buildings decommissioned and demolished nearly 50 years ago by a third party demolition contractor under the oversight of the U.S. government.  Some of this debris was from buildings formerly used for uranium processing dating back to the 1940s at a Mallinckrodt site in St. Louis. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in coordination with the Department of Energy is now responsible for the environmental remediation of the St. Louis Airport Site, which includes Coldwater Creek, under its Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program.  This remediation is nearly complete.  Mallinckrodt is not involved in the remediation activities that have been conducted at the St. Louis Airport Site.”


Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.