As a former French settlement established in the early 1800s in St. Louis County, the city of Robertson eventually became known as an historic black community.
A year ago, I had never heard of Robertson until I was sitting at the dinner table of a dear friend who happened to invite a woman who once lived there. We were talking about the attorney general's then-recent report about radioactive waste contamination being found off-premises near the Bridgeton Landfill.
The woman informed me she remembered haul trucks coming into Robertson dumping strange things into a stretch of land once used as a short-term landfill. She said rocks would fall off the haul trucks and kids would play with them as part of a game. The former Robertson resident said whatever was in those trucks ended up getting members of her family and neighbors sick.
For decades, Robertson residents depended on well and fresh water from surrounding streams. By the 1950s, those water sources were "black as a lagoon."
The narrative of former Robertson residents is the same. "We started getting cancer." "Many people died." "Our high school closed as people were getting sick and dying." "I've had breast cancer three times." "Nearly all my family who lived in Robertson died."
As the state senator of this former black community, I have held 57 town hall meetings on radioactive waste contamination in the last 15 months. It is my belief that the same type of radioactive waste contaminates that were dumped into the Bridgeton Landfill (and also contaminated Coldwater Creek) were dumped into the Kent landfill in Robertson.
On Sunday, December 4 at 3 p.m., I am asking former Robertson residents or their descendants to join me at the First M.B. Church, 356 Woodlawn Ave. in Hazelwood – the community once known as Robertson.
The surviving residents of Robertson are getting older; we cannot allow their stories to be forever lost and never explored. It is my strong belief that the people of Robertson were victims of environmental racism. I am in the process of discovering the missing pieces to this story. I need your help.
Please join me at the First MB Church of Robertson, 356 Woodlawn Ave. in Hazelwood, 3 p.m. Sunday, December 4.
State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City) represents District 14 in the Missouri Senate.