Disposal of Radioactive Wastes in the Metropolitan St. Louis Area: The Environmental and Health Legacy of the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works

Author: DeGarmo, Denise
This book seeks to provide an examination of the history and consequences of the atomic legacy of St. Louis and the Metro-East by appealing to historians, WWII enthusiasts, environmentalists, as well as individuals interested in domestic and international nuclear policy. Dating back to the beginning of the “Atomic Age,” 2.5 million cubic yards of radioactive wastes have been dispersed throughout the St. Louis area. This waste resulted from atomic weapons work carried out by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works for the US government under secret contract. Between 1942 and 1966, over 300,000 tons of uranium had been processed in the downtown St. Louis and Weldon Spring plants. While bits and pieces of information regarding the atomic legacy of St. Louis can be found on a number of internet sites and in a few historical accounts of the Manhattan Project, to date there has been no comprehensive study of the secret contracting effort that made Mallinckrodt Chemical Works one of the most important contributors to the atomic bomb project. Nor has there been adequate discussion of the long-term consequences of this atomic program on the health and environment of the community.


“The issue examined herein is the environmental legacy of nuclear production in the United States, generally, and the Metropolitan St. Louis area specifically … To Dr. DeGarmo’s credit, this book gives an extraordinary historical narrative of nuclear events without blaming any person, corporation, or agency involved in weapons construction or environmental management. Instead her descriptive account discloses the problems surrounding nuclear production and processes that occurred in relative civic secrecy for decades.” – (from the Foreword) Professor Nicholas Guehlstorf, Southern Illinois University

“Dr. DeGarmo’s book on the ‘nuclear history’ of the city of St. Louis and the development of the atomic bomb is a fascinating account of the powerful influence of scientific claims in the design and execution of foreign policy, and at the same time a rare look at the micro-foundations of the United States nuclear program…This book will become an important contribution to studies of American nuclear and military history, especially the sociological underpinnings of military grand strategy. As a cross-disciplinary volume, it will prove a valuable contribution to political scientists and historians alike.” – Dr. Jose Raul Perales, Trade Policy Adisor, Puerto Rico Trade Company

“Dr. DeGarmo constructs a compelling narrative arc … that takes the reader from the 1930s up to the present day, from the east coast to Chicago and then to St. Louis, and from abstract policy decisions made in places like Washington, DC to the concrete effects of those decisions on particular individuals in places like Weldon Springs, MO … No matter where you are from, the tale that Dr. DeGarmo tells of the nuclear legacy of St. Louis and the Metro-East hits home and hits hard.” – Professor William S. Larkin, Southern Illinois University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. A Bit of Atomic History
2. The Establishment and Growth of Mallinckrodt Chemical Works
3. Mallinckrodt Chemical Works Uranium Division at Weldon Spring, Missouri
4. Environmental and Health Legacies
5. Closing Thoughts