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Deaths Along a Radioactive Creek

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Mallinckrodt pharmaceuticals polluted a north St. Louis County creek with radioactive materials, causing a string of deaths, five lawsuits with multiple plaintiffs claim in Federal Court.

One of the five lawsuits was filed on behalf of 23 dead people and their families. All the decedents died of cancers or related diseases; they sued Mallinckrodt Inc., Mallinckrodt LLC and Cotter Corp.

All of the victims lived along or near Cold Water Creek, which runs through north St. Louis County, and next to the defendants' property at Lambert International Airport.

The plaintiffs claim that hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic and radioactive material was transported from the defendants' downtown facility (SLDS) to the airport facility (SLAPS) from 1946 until the 1960s.

"Over time, these hazardous, toxic, and radioactive waste residues migrated directly from the SLAPS onto other sites (via Coldwater Creek) or were deposited as the residues were hauled along transportation routes, contaminating the soils and sediments of the Vicinity Properties," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs say the defendants' downtown and airport sites have elevated levels of uranium, thorium and radium in soil and in groundwater.

The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that direct contact with or ingestion of the soils or groundwater near these sites can pose significant health problems, the lawsuit states.

Mallinckrodt used the downtown site to process uranium from 1942 to 1957 through contracts with the Manhattan Energy Commission or the Atomic Energy Commission. Mallinckrodt bought the 21-acre airport property in 1946 to store toxic and radioactive material from the downtown site.

"By 1960, there were approximately 50,000 chemical drums and approximately 3,500 tons of miscellaneous contaminated steel and alloy scrap stored onsite at SLAPS directly adjacent to Coldwater Creek," the complaint states. "Coldwater Creek is the major drainage mechanism for the SLAPS, the SLAPS VPs [vicinity properties], and the Latty Avenue Properties. It has been designated a Metropolitan No-Discharge Stream. Through time, various meanders in Coldwater Creek were backfilled to support construction, resulting in commingling of the site soils and sediments with hazardous, toxic, and radioactive wastes brought to the SLAPS."

The plaintiffs say the toxic and radioactive chemicals were removed from SLAPS in stages throughout the 1960s. The chemicals were sold to companies that moved them to the Latty Avenue Properties in north St. Louis County, which also are contaminated.

In 1969, the radioactive wastes at Latty Avenue were sold to Cotter, which began to transport them out of state and to a nearby landfill, the suit states.

The plaintiffs say that Congress added SLAPS and the other sites to the U.S. EPA's National Priorities List for cleanup in 1989.

They claim Coldwater Creek takes in much more precipitation than it did before development. This makes flooding throughout north St. Louis County more probable.

"Defendants' processing, storage, handling and/or disposal of hazardous, toxic, and radioactive materials at the St. Louis FUSRAP [Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program] Sites have generated significant quantities of substances that are highly toxic to humans and the environment and are carcinogenic," the complaint states.

"Throughout the history of St. Louis FUSRAP Sites, each defendant (or its predecessor in interest) caused recurrent releases of hazardous, toxic, and radioactive materials into the environment, in complete disregard for applicable law and for the health and safety of the surrounding communities and the natural environment. These negligent, grossly negligent, and reckless releases occurred in various ways, including through direct and indirect discharges or radioactive and toxic materials into public water bodies, such as Coldwater Creek; the exposure of workers to these materials, who then in turn spread contamination outside the worksite; and the improper disposal of hazardous, toxic, and radioactive materials.

"These negligent, grossly negligent, and reckless releases have resulted in plaintiffs' exposure to hazardous, toxic, and radioactive materials. Moreover, because of the long half-life of the radioactive substances involved, persons currently living near the St. Louis FUSRAP Sites have been, and will continue to be, exposed to these dangerous substances."

The plaintiffs seek punitive damages under the Price Anderson Act. They claim any bodily injury and illness caused by the release of nuclear products constitutes a "nuclear incident" under the Act.

The lawsuits were all filed by Kenneth J. Brennan of TorHoerman Law in Edwardsville, Ill.

They are part of a series of complaints Brennan filed against the defendants. Since October 2012, Brennan has filed 21 lawsuits against Mallinckrodt and Cotter for radioactive releases.

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