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St. Louis County proposal calls for reviews and testing of Coldwater Creek projects

Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County has been linked to increased cancer risk, thanks to radioactive waste that contaminated the creek bed.
Sarah Fentem
St. Louis Public Radio
A St. Louis County Council member wants to require the county’s Department of Emergency Management and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to review new construction and utility permits near Coldwater Creek. Proponents say the measure aims to protect people who live near the contaminated creek bed.

A St. Louis County Council member is working on a bill that would require the county’s Department of Emergency Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review new construction and utility projects near Coldwater Creek.

The bill aims to ensure that new building projects don’t release radioactive waste that was found in the contaminated creek bed and property, said Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway, who is writing the legislation.

“I think there are probably a lot of people that live around Coldwater Creek, they don't have any idea that they are living near this radioactive waste that is decades old at this point,” she said.

Dunaway said the current draft would apply to new building, utility and construction permits within ZIP codes 63134, 63042, 63031, 63033, 63034 and 63138.

The Army Corps typically reviews permits for large construction projects. Dunaway's bill would ensure smaller projects also receive scrutiny so they don’t spread contaminated radioactive waste in the air.

“It would pull in the right officials and the right expertise and professionals to be able to analyze and maybe even pay for some of the cleanup, if there is any radioactive waste,” she said.

Dunaway aims to hold legislative meetings on the bill by early fall. She said she’s working with Army Corps and county emergency management personnel.

The Corps of Engineers reviews larger construction projects by utility companies as a part of its utility support agreement. But the bill would allow the corps to review projects that may fly under the radar but remain in the Coldwater Creek 10-year floodplain, said Phillip Moser, chief of the Corps’ Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program in the St. Louis district.

Moser said the proposal would allow the corps to review the land and provide support if necessary. He said that would ensure people who are planning to construct in the space remain safe.

Moser said he hopes the proposal reassures area residents.

“What this can do for the community is give them that extra layer of comfort to make sure that if they're doing any type of improvements on the properties that are within a certain area that we're going to be notified and that we're going to be able to provide support,” Moser said.

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.