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Weldon Spring ‘pyramid’ receives EPA Excellence in Site Reuse award

Students climp to the top of the Weldon Spring pyramid.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] Region 7 has named the 228-acre Weldon Spring Remedial Action Project as one of the winners of the third annual National Federal Facility Excellence in Site Reuse awards.

The awards recognize the innovative thinking and cooperation among federal agencies, states, tribes, local partners and developers that have led to noteworthy restoration and reuse of federal facility sites.

The Weldon Spring site rises up 75 feet at its highest point, like a pyramid, one-half mile northeast of Francis Howell High. The site is bounded by August A. Busch Wildlife area to the north, and the heavily forested Weldon Spring Conservation Area to the south and west.

Beneath the massive mound of rocks lies the remains of a bygone era. During the 1940s, the site was contaminated by the production of explosives and in the 1950s until about 1966, it was the site of uranium processing by the Mallinckrodt chemical company.

By the 1980s, public concern about the movement of water toward the county’s drinking well fields and worries about the interpretive center prompted a $900 million Superfund cleanup of the site that largely ended in 2001. Monitoring of groundwater from 106 locations and wells continues, along with monitoring of surface water.

The rocks cover the site’s 45-acre “disposal cell,” which contains 1.48 million cubic yards of waste. It sits where 44 old contaminated plant buildings stood. Into it was placed rubble and material from those structures as well as waste from a nearby quarry site.

“One of the major goals of the Superfund program is to return contaminated sites into productive reuse for the surrounding communities,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “The Weldon Spring Interpretive Center provides historical and scientific educational opportunities about the site and its cleanup that will inform future generations about the area’s unique history.”

Students get up close and personal with a map in the Weldon Spring interpretive center.

A 10,663-square-foot interpretive center at the Weldon Spring site is a destination for students and tourists alike for the dual purpose of education and recreation. It opened to the public in August 2002. Visitors also can traverse the pyramid, which is staffed by contractors for the U.S. Department of Energy [DOE].

The center’s goal is to inform and educate the public about the site’s historical legacy and the DOE’s long-term stewardship. An important educational focus is on risk communication, showing how cleanup activities made the site safe for public use. Other redevelopment highlights include community use facilities and a natural prairie habitat, which promotes wildlife conservation.

Students get up close and personal with a map in the Weldon Spring interpretive center.
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