WASHINGTON – Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley sent a letter Wednesday to President Joe Biden demanding immediate action to clean up Jana Elementary School in north St. Louis County.
Environmental investigation consultants pointed out radioactive contamination at the school last year. Jana Elementary opened in 1970 and sits in the flood plain of Coldwater Creek, which was contaminated with radioactive waste generated from the production of atomic weapons in the 1940s and 50s.
Concerns about contamination resurfaced and gained national attention in October, months after historic flash flooding slammed the St. Louis region. Jana Elementary closed down, and students have since moved to other buildings within the Hazelwood School District.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted tests at the school last fall, which indicated the school was safe and did not have radioactive exposure above normal. USACE expects ongoing remediation efforts around Coldwater Creek to be finished by 2038.
Hawley says more action is needed.
“We are well past the time for passing the buck on this issue,” said Hawley in his latest letter to President Biden. “The parents of Hazelwood School District deserve answers—and they deserved them months ago. Direct your Administration to stop pointing fingers and actually fix the problem in front of them.”
Prior to Wednesday’s letter, Hawley called for Biden to declare a federal emergency over the radioactive contamination, though that was never authorized.
In January, Hawley and Missouri U.S. Rep. Cori Bush asked the federal government to perform more testing for radioactive contamination. Hawley says US ACE responded to the bipartisan request and noted it “does not have authority… to conduct additional testing beyond the scope of the record of decision.”
Last month, Hawley introduced legislation dubbed the “Justice for Jana Act,” which would not only require cleanup at Jana Elementary, but also order USACE to test all Hazelwood School District properties.
“The lack of urgency from your Administration is outrageous. Children and parents in my state have had their lives upended by the closure of this elementary school,” said Hawley. “These families may not be from wealthy New York suburbs or the Bay Area – and they may not be your party’s donors – but they are just as important as any American family and deserve the same attention from your Administration. I will wait no longer.”
Hawley noted several times he would hold all Senate-confirmed nominations for Department of Energy positions until his requests are met.
Meanwhile, the USACE noted in a statement from Oct. 2022 that “the team has been coordinating with the Hazelwood School District regarding the status of sampling on the property,” and “any contamination posing a high risk or immediate threat to human health or the environment would be made a priority for remediation.”