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Archive for March 16th, 2020

While I’m finishing up 56 Houses Left- the book, the biggest question people are asking me lately is not why Lambert expanded, but on my thoughts about West Lake and Coldwater Creek. It is a question I have actively ducked in the last 10 years.

With burning underground fires and radioactive waste leftover from the Manhattan Project in the West Lake Landfill to the west, to Coldwater Creek’s radioactive runoffs in the east, everyone who grew up here are questioning the implications on their health. From the Coldwater Creek- Just the Facts website, the Just Moms Facebook group, and HBO’s Atomic Homefront has led us all to ask ourselves, “Will I be affected?”

While I’ve been working on this book in the few moments between the work I am paid to do, I admit I had abandoned this project for a stretch of time due to my growing personal health fears. When I was in my 20s, I was much more fearless in taking pictures of my hometown in demise. Not only did it make me feel ‘cool,’ it gave me something to live for when everything I had known in my young life was disappearing before my eyes. Now that I thoroughly enjoy my life, I’ve had my own health woes in the last ten years that keep me up at night. Like most who came from here, I too wonder if living in the blip once known as Carrollton is the cause of my myriad of health issues. Infertility. Rare autoimmune disorders. Rare allergies. Many surgeries cutting away bits of my existence. I was told that my appendix was six times the size it should have been when it was removed. The last ten years have not been kind. It seems I took photos of a fading neighborhood to show kids I would later learn I could never have.

I’ve resolved that we will never really know the extent of the radioactive damage. We are right to suspect that leftover waste from the atomic age may be bringing humanity to an earlier grave, but this is true no matter where we live. Leaving our warnings to the future generations while living the best life is all we can do.

Do I think that Lambert expanded into Bridgeton as a way to mitigate the residents from the landfill and creek radioactivity? I’m not an expert, but I have read thousands of articles, essays, political position statements, and the Environmental Impact Statements relative to Lambert’s airport expansion. To me, the answer seems better to fit Hanlon’s Razor, “never attribute malice which can be blamed on incompetence.” And human incompetence may be the reason there is radioactive waste in the area to begin with.

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