Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • To the west of the St. Louis, across the Missouri River in St. Charles County, is a very large pile of stones.

    On average, 65 feet in height and covering 45 acres of land.

    A lot of small rocks indeed. You can climb this artificial hill up a series of steps such as are shown in the photograph. It's a good view from the top, you can see a lot of the county on a clear day.

    A shame then to consider that you are standing on 1.48 million cubic yards of some of the most toxic materials known to man, radionuclides (uranium, thorium and radium), heavy metals, inorganic anions, nitroaromatic compounds, polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and asbestos.

    All leftovers from operations at the Weldon Spring Ordinance Works that manufactured high explosives during World War Two, then became a uranium processing center for the nuclear weapons program postwar, and later, during the Vietnam war, a processing plant for the Agent Orange herbicide, which, as we now know, was contaminated with extremely poisonous dioxins.

    That really covers about all the chemical nasties you can think of.

    And here you are, on top of all that thinking, "What a pretty pile of stones this is!"

    This structure is designed to last the geologically insignificant period of one thousand years, supposedly keeping the contaminants out of the ground water supply that gave Weldon Spring its name.

    There are some who doubt this prediction. Standing on top of the vast pile, seemingly so large and reassuring, I began to feel something of that unease too. I went there once in 2009. I don't think I'll go again.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.