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The Waffle House shooter had an earlier weapons arrest near the White House. Also on our Monday rundown: new eviction data underscores America’s affordable-housing crisis; plus we will take you to a state where one county is putting juvenile justice under public health.

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Voices Being Heard in Missouri

Extensive testing is being done for radioactive contamination in neighborhoods around St. Louis thanks to citizens who made their voices heard. (Earth Island Journal)
Extensive testing is being done for radioactive contamination in neighborhoods around St. Louis thanks to citizens who made their voices heard. (Earth Island Journal)
March 9, 2016

ST. LOUIS - In 1942, Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in St Louis began secretly processing uranium for the U.S. government. By the time it wrapped up, 50,000 tons had been produced.

Fast-forward decades later, and social media has become a way for people who have lost touch with each other to communicate once again. Several people who grew up in neighborhoods of North St. Louis County began to notice that an unusually high number of their former friends and schoolmates had serious illnesses or had died from leukemia, rare brain tumors and cancer. They began asking questions and demanding answers from the federal government.

The nonprofit environmental publication Earth Island Journal ran an in-depth piece on the subject, and editor Maureen Nandini Mitra said the community's voices now are being heard.

"Much of this wouldn't have come out," she said, "had it not been for a handful of citizens who took it upon themselves to start mapping these illnesses and making a list of the people who were sick."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started testing and found many contaminated sites in the neighborhoods around Coldwater Creek, which is a tributary of the Missouri River.

Mitra said the Army Corps of Engineers was focusing its attention around the city's airport, but these same citizens kept pressing the issue to get the Corps to look at residential areas nearby.

"They weren't even considering looking at areas north of the highway, where the homes were," she said, "until these residents started telling them, 'Look, there's something going on over here. You need to look.' "

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started a health assessment of the area in January, but that process will take up to two years to complete. The area has not been labeled a cancer cluster, but many medical officials agree there is a higher than normal amount of illness and death from those neighborhoods.

The article is online at earthisland.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO