West Lake Landfill
West Lake Landfill is home to 43,000 tons of nuclear waste generated by the Manhattan Project. The Mallinckrodt corporation—which had been manufacturing ether, and now focuses on manufacturing opiates (or perhaps, more accurately, on evading responsibility for the consequences of manufacturing opiates) marshalled the patriotism of its workers during World War II to help build nuclear weapons (though to increase their fun, didn’t tell them that or force them to wear safety equipment), and to stave off the end of the world. These workers risked their lives handling high-grade uranium, to ensure the safety of future generations (see the Weldon Spring and St. Louis Airport sites for tons more fun info), and created a whole lot of nuclear waste in the process. The waste was bought and sold and bought and sold and finally ended up in the hands of one Cotter Corporation, who hired truckers (again, more fun if you don’t know what you’re handling and don’t have to don the proper PPE) to transport this waste from various Mallinckrodt-controlled sites—many now Superfun! sites—to West Lake. While the truckers laid the waste to rest here illegally in the 1970s, the feds in theory have vowed to find it a new home sometime in the next century (go EPA!).
Actually, the only reason we know about this waste is the relentless agitation by local activists—who, in the 1990s, began to investigate, and to spoil the fun of keeping secrets. Republic Services (the owner of the site and probably the company who picks up your household garbage if you live in the USA—also their majority shareholder happens to be Bill Gates, and just imagine all the fun he’s been having) effectively guarded these secrets from residents for decades. Yet, after thousands of deaths and sick neighbors, olfactory irritants, a whole lot of FOIA requests, and several lawsuits, Republic finally decided to share the existence of this marvel with the rest of us. Once a farm, and then a vineyard and winery, this fantastic, alien-looking landscape now boasts not only radioactive waste but an underground fire, which officials affectionately call a “subsurface smoldering event.” Its proximity to the Missouri River (less than ½ mile!), a drinking water source for many nearby communities, promises loads of water-based future radioactive fun. In fact, groundwater runoff is one of the highlights of this property, and enables the radioactive fun to move quickly through the landscape—and ensures easy accessibility for everyone downstream.