JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State
Reps. Tricia Byrnes and
Richard West are calling
on Missouri’s leaders and
departments to protect
their citizens and seek
answers as to whether
victims of atomic bomb and
hazardous waste in
the St. Louis and St.
Charles Counties could
from the United States
Rep. Byrnes, a freshman Republican from Wentzville and mother of a cancer survivor, and Rep. West, a sophomore Republican from Wentzville and son of a cancer victim, have filed two mirror bills, HCR 21 and HCR 22, respectively, which would urge the Missouri Attorney General, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to conduct a joint investigation into whether the State of Missouri and its residents could potentially receive monetary compensation from the United States Government for contamination of the environment with radioactive and other hazardous contaminants from the Manhattan Project.
West and Byrnes first met in 2018 while West was then serving as the mayor of New Melle, which is when they began their work on the issue of hazardous waste and its relation to cancer and illness in Missourians living in the areas. St. Louis, St. Charles, and the surrounding region hosted uranium processing plants for the production of military explosive and nuclear weapons and to this day contend with the dumped radioactive and toxic contaminants and equipment related to this work.
Both representatives and their families have had their lives changed due to hazardous waste, as Byrnes’ son has fought cancer, and West’s mother passed away from cancer while his brother has been exposed to hazardous and atomic bomb waste. Their journeys, and seeing the effects this matter is having on the lives of Missourians, have made this a top priority for them in the 2023 legislative session.
“I believe, we have a duty to serve Missourians injured by the radioactive and hazardous waste created by our Federal Government during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War Era,” Byrnes said. “Rarely a week has gone by in five years in which I have not been notified of a person with a rare cancer. When I hear of a 45-year-old who has been diagnosed with brain cancer, I can usually guess which high school they attended.”
Byrnes’ HCR 21 and West’s HCR 22 are scheduled be heard in the Missouri Capitol in front of the House General Laws Committee at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. More information on that hearing may be found on the Missouri House of Representatives’ hearings webpage, found at https://house.mo.gov/allhearings.aspx. Byrnes says this is the first time the State of Missouri has scheduled a hearing in order to give voices to those injured by this harmful waste, and is asking for everyone impacted to attend and share their stories.
“This is about making things right,” West said. “This is a matter of public safety. Our citizens are facing this fight, and it is up to us to give them as much assistance as we can to aid in this battle. We cannot continue looking away, and it’s beyond time to start taking the steps to address this issue, protect our families, and do what we can to make their lives whole.”
“This issue goes far beyond our region. Just a few months ago, students at Jana Elementary School in Florissant switched to virtual learning after being exposed to unacceptably high levels of radioactive waste,” Byrnes added. “These are our people, our children, being affected by this, and it is up to us and our government to ensure the health and wellbeing of Missourians in all parts of our state are protected in the event they have a hazardous site in their area, and to determine the impact and course of action available to the victims of this radioactive waste.”
In addition to this legislation, Byrnes has also filed HB 1361 which would direct the Department of Health and Senior Services to create a heat map of any cancer or other condition listed as a condition for which compensation was or is available under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 which is currently only available to Department of Energy employees. The purpose of this map and legislation would be to detect if residents are experiencing the same illnesses as the workers involved in the construction of the atomic bomb. At this time, HR 1361, is still awaiting a committee assignment.
Byrnes represents part of St. Charles County (District 63) in the Missouri House of Representatives. She was elected to her first two-year term in November 2022. West represents parts of St. Charles and Warren Counties (District 102) in the Missouri House of Representatives. He was elected to his first two-year term in November 2020.
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