“Tons of nuclear waste, now a tourist site”
In Saint Charles County, Missouri, near Weldon Spring, adjacent to Highway 40, lies an enormous mound of rocks, rising out of the ground like an ancient burial tomb. Underneath it lies tons of hazardous waste produced by a chemical plant that once stood in its place. Today, Weldon Spring draws thousands of curious visitors each year. They climb to the top of the 75-foot tall dome to read the placards that tell the story of the sad history of communities that disappeared in 1940 to make way for the world’s largest explosives factory. Between 1940 and 1941, the US Army purchased over 17,000 acres of land in Saint Charles County, just outside of St. Louis On those land happened to sit three pretty towns with rolling wooded hills - Hamburg, Howell, and Toonerville. They were immediately evacuated. Hundreds of homes, businesses, churches, schools and any other buildings in the area were either demolished or burned and within a few months the three towns ceased to exist. A massive factory was erected to manufacture TNT and DNT in order to supply Allied troops in the Word War II. The Weldon Spring Ordnance Works, operated by Atlas Powder Company, employed more than 5,000 people and contained more than 1,000 buildings. By the time the plant ceased production on Aug. 15, 1945, the day the Japanese surrendered, it had produced more than 700 million pounds of TNT. Beginning in the 1980's, the U.S. Department of Energy began extensive decontamination of the area, eventually building a gigantic waste disposal cell to entomb the waste materials. The official name of this site is the Weldon Spring Site Remedial Action Project (WSSRAP). Completed in 2001, the mountainous structure covers 45 acres and stores 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous material. Stairs lead up to the top of the cell where there is a viewing platform and plaques that provide information about the local area, the history of the site, and the construction of the waste disposal cell. Visitors can also visit the 9,000-square-foot interpretive center housed in a building at the base of the cell that was once used to check workers for radioactivity. Incidentally, the top of the Weldon Spring waste disposal cell is the highest point in St. Charles County.
It's a big gravel hill in a nearly abandoned military site. More like a mountain, really. There are stairs and a rest area at the top, but it's still a really significant hike. The cool thing is that when you're standing on top of that mound, you're standing on top of 1.5 million cubic yards of nuclear waste.
I have friends who have climed the Great Pyramid, friends who have run with the bulls in Pamplona. I don't personally know anyone else who has stood on top of a few tons of uranium.
It's a quick little stop, all you have to do is hike up the pile and read the little signs along the way. There's a nice view from the top, and it's pretty cool to be able to say you hiked to the top of a pile of radioactive waste.
You won't find a better place to experience a eclipse....
Worth the stop, just because it's so close to the highway. It's pretty cool from the bottom and on the walk up, but don't expect any insane views. I'm happy we stopped because it's cool to say we went though :)
Interesting stop not far off highway 64. Easy walk and short climb to the top. Stunning views. Worth stretching your legs. Didn't go inside.
Eerily beautiful. Worth the stop, just to see the surreal view from the top. Stop in the visitors center to learn more about how the containment barrier works. Fascinating.
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Weldon Spring Site Remedial Action Project Disposal Cell
- Mon - Fri: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Sat: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
- Sun: 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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