This large mound is a seven-story high tomb of radioactive waste. During World War II it was the site of one of the largest ordnance production plants in the country. In 1940, the United States government displaced the towns of Hamburg, Howell, and Toonerville and their 576 citizens (most of whom were of German heritage - - probably not a coincidence) to build the Weldon Spring Ordnance Works. At its peak more than 5,000 people were employed in over 1,000 buildings and produced over 700 million pounds of TNT by the end of the war.
After the war, the site was transferred to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) for construction of the Weldon Spring Uranium Feed Materials Plant. The Plant processed raw uranium ore into “yellow cake,” or concentrated ore that was shipped to other sites. The toxic materials produced by the plant were stored in open-air lagoons along with TNT, wastes, uranium and radioactive materials which were disposed of in a quarry. In 1967 the Army took over the plant to produce dangerous herbicides, including Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War. The processing plant operated until 1968, after which the site was abandoned but still contained contaminated equipment and hazardous chemicals.
Beginning in the 1980's, the Government began extensive decontamination of the area, eventually building this gigantic "Cell" to entomb the waste materials. The mountainous site covers 45 acres and stores 1.5 million cubic yards of material. It was opened in 2002 as a tourist attraction, with stairs leading to the top of the cell. A viewing platform on top of the disposal cell is the highest accessible point in St. Charles County and has four plaques that provide information about the local area, the history of the site, and the construction of the disposal cell. A 9,000-square-foot interpretive center is housed in a building at the base of the cell that was once used to check workers for radioactivity. Exhibits explain the site's history, including of the towns of Toonerville, Howell, and Hamburg, a timeline of significant events, the legacy of the TNT and uranium plants, the efforts of the community to clean up the site, and how the disposal cell was constructed. The interpretive center is very interesting, well-done and well-worth the visit.
The area around the cell has been converted to a wildlife conservation
area, with trails that connect the site to the nearby August Busch
Memorial Conservation Area, the Weldon Spring Conservation Area, and
KATY Trail State Park.
Taken with a Nikon D800 and 16 mm fisheye Nikkor lens.
Best viewed on black background here: View On Black
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