Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail



We've been working on updating some of this site's very first blogs lately, and the Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail is one I've been meaning to polish up for years. Francis had never been, so last weekend I dragged him and his fancy camera to my favorite museum in Missouri. I think it was RoadsideAmerica.com who came up with the name Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail, and that has always been my favorite name for the site. You have to see it to believe it!



The proper name for this place is the Weldon Spring Site Remedial Action Project (WSSRAP). In the 40s, the site was used to manufacture explosives. In the 50s, it was used to process uranium ore ("yellow cake") and a nearby quarry was used to dispose of radioactive waste. In the 60s, the military considered using the site to make Agent Orange, but never got past some initial cleanup efforts, and no Agent Orange was actually produced here. In the 70s the army used the site for military training. In the 80s the Department of Energy took over and started the cleanup process, and cleanup continued through the 90s. By 2001, the toxic stew was piled up and buried under what I like to call a Post-Apocalyptic Cahokia Mound and then a museum was built to tell us all about radiation and 21st century mound building.






This time around, we spent some time getting a tour from Karl & Shirley Daubel, the couple who run the museum on the weekends. Karl used to work on site, and they know everything there is to know about the history, clean up, and construction of the cell. There have been some comments on this post over the years from concerned residents of the area, and I encourage you to stop by the museum some weekend to learn more about it.



While it is true that you probably should not have gone swimming in the lagoon back in the 60s and 70s, today it is totally safe. Even during the cleanup process, every possible effort was made to ensure not one radioactive particle left the site. The workers even had to put their hazmat suits in a barrel that was then put into the cell before it was closed up!





Today, the answer to the question, "How much radiation am I receiving at the WSSRAP?" is, "Not much." Less than your average day-to-day activities, presumably because they did such a good job of mound building. I always like to tell people that you get more "radiated" by sleeping in the same bed as another person. Now that we're confident on that point, let's check out the mound.



You might think this is just a mound, that you can maybe walk around it at the bottom and that's it. But just like the Big Mound at Cahokia, there are stairs up to a viewing platform. It's like being in a sci-fi movie up at the top.



This giant pile of rocks is the highest point in St Charles County, and totally surrounded by Weldon Spring Conservation Area and Busch Wildlife Area. Green all around. So crazy.





The next picture is Keith in 2008, to give you a sense of the scale of the viewing platform. Those concrete podiums have maps and information about the site, in case you are ever out there when the visitor's center is not open.



Once upon a time I heard that there was an actual trail with interpretive signage, hence the name Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail, but further research seems to indicate that someone misinterpreted the visitors center/museum. You can walk around the cell, and they have some native prarie planted, but there's no "Adventure Trail", per say. Still, much like Caveman BBQ, the name sticks.



We don't know what the big gravel fields are for. Shirley's theory is that they might be testing areas, as the site is still constantly monitored.





I am happy to add to this update that the Google Maps have finally been corrected! The address of the site is 7295 Highway 94 South, St. Charles, Missouri 63304. For cyclists, the WSSRAP is on the Hamburg Trail, which intersects the Katy Trail at mile 56.7 just west of the Weldon Spring Trailhead. The Interpretive Center is about 4 miles from the Katy Trail on the Hamburg Trail.

17 comments:

  1. I am a graduate of Francis Howell HS right next to the 'mound', in the '80's we used to hang out, party, explore, and swim in the quarry out there. (when we weren't run off for being on 'private property'---but we always came back) I was recently home for a visit and was shocked to find out how much was out there--we always knew there was 'stuff' out there but didn't pay much mind to it. We used to joke about the 'glowing green' factor out there, but that's where we went to school. You are right---it has to be seen to be believed!!!! BTW: it's not sci-fi---it's fact. Gov't cover up is what it was, and they were finally held responsible for it. It's a wounder we are not all ill or worse. But still pround to be a FHHS Viking!!

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  2. I am also a graduate of FHHS 1980.. I am appalled that they made this a museum. There are too many of us with cancer and auto immune diseases to make this a museum. It is a government cover up. They will never ever own up to what they did to us!


    I am a proud FHHS Viking!

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    1. I honestly can't get over the fact that you just said that they will never own up to it... and shouldn't have built a museum. Do you need a neon sign or what?

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  3. What do you mean ... Need a neon sign??? We are all glowing!

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    1. Try that again. They built a MUSEUM to "cover up" a hot dump site. But they shouldn't be confessing their coverup in such a grandiose way, is what you seem to be saying.

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  4. There have been too many FHHS students affected by that dump site!

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  5. well, you clearly haven't been to the museum to see what they have to say about all of that. I guess holocaust and civil rights museums and anything else that seeks to educate the public about bad events is also APPALLING.

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  6. No I have not been to the "Museum" If it was built to educate then it is worth it.

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    1. I now live on the west coast ... that is the main reason I have not been there to "Visit"

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  7. I'm a '86 grad of FHHS, been there , done that. I was also surprised as to what all was really out there, we knew there was stuff, but ...WOW!! There was a lot of crazy, deadly stuff there. I have visited the mound and the museum...it was built to educate, inform, and I feel take some credit for the mess. They may never take ALL credit for ALL the trouble this stuff caused, but I felt it was a good start. It informed me and my mother of some things that none of us knew was there....or that people did nt talk about to their kids/ teenagers. Some shocking...some just appalling!! But it is worth at least a visit...get a little more educated...and then search it up and get more info.
    Worth the trip and educational....lots of pictures too.

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you took the time to visit!

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  8. Since I was a kid my dad has drove past this site tell me stories of what it was like when he was a kid. I have always been curious about radioactive zones so it has really held my attention to have something so close to home. However, I did not know that it was turned into a museum. I now know what I am doing this weekend!

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  9. Crazy!

    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Weldon+Spring+Site+Remedial+Action+Project&ll=38.69442,-90.725226&spn=0.028471,0.038109&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&channel=rcs&hq=Site+Remedial+Action+Project&hnear=Weldon+Spring,+St+Charles,+Missouri&t=h&z=15

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  10. I am also a 83' person from F.H.H.S. the old one when there was only one. we all knew it was radioactive. we were told it was part of the Manhattan project. we swam, fished and hunted Busch wildlife reserve next to that location. I lived through the 3 eyed fish days, the 2 headed or 5 legged dear incidents, and the leukemia death wave of fisherman from the lakes in the area. all your fears are true and more...

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  11. Another FHHS graduate here and I have been to the educational site which is well designed. However, the only mention of the high school, that also had a daycare and early childhood center, is the moving of the original one room school after the land was bought. The map that shows the areas where they finally checked the water and found contamination conveniently circumvents school property. When people say they won't own up to it, they are likely referring to the fact that the government will never admit that having a school right next to a contaminated site, not checking the area until the mid 80s, leaving the school in operation throughout 17 years of remediation, and never looking into the health issues experienced by alumni and faculty falls short of accepting responsibility. While they are admitting and ultimately addressing contamination on the factory property, they are unlikely to ever open the can of worms that is FHHS just a few hundred yards up the road.

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