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Advocating for long-term solutions
to radioactive waste

West Lake landfill protest

“I do what touches my heart,” said Sister Virginia (Ginny) Grumich, a sister, educator, 2018 Jubilarian and social justice advocate. After working at schools and parishes for 45 years, she now has more time to turn her attention to social justice issues, in particular, care of creation and immigration. Celebrating 60 years as a School Sister of Notre Dame, Sister Ginny is still active with causes close to her heart.

One of those causes is advocating for a long-term solution for the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri. The landfill contains illegally dumped radioactive waste material leftover from the post-World War II Manhattan Project. The West Lake Landfill is capped, but has no lining to keep the toxins from leaking into the soil and groundwater. Tests indicate that some of the radioactive waste has already seeped into the groundwater. Compounding this problem is a smoldering fire in the adjoining Bridgeton Landfill, which is moving steadily toward the radioactive waste in the West Lake Landfill. No one knows what will happen when the fire reaches the radioactive waste.

After years of contacting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a permanent solution, a partial removal plan has been presented, but Sister Ginny says it is not enough. “The EPA presented a proposed decision to remove about 70 percent of the radioactive material and leave the remaining 30 percent there,” she explained. “But it’s all 100 percent lethal, and all of it needs to be removed. This is why we are writing to the EPA: to get our voices heard and be part of the solution to make the area safe for the people who live and work in that community.”

A main concern for SSNDs stems from the fact that the landfill is so close to The Sarah Community in Bridgeton, Missouri, where many sisters live. She and other SSNDs have joined with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary to be a public witness by holding signs and praying near the landfill, and by writing to the EPA and lawmakers.

“Look around and see what’s happening in the world around you, especially locally,” she explained. “See where your heart takes you and where the Lord is leading you.”

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