Category Archives: Environment

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COVID-19 Pandemic Multiplies Worries For Residents Living Near West Lake Landfill

By Don Corrigan

Fear. Anxiety. Heartbreak. Those are words used by residents living near the radioactive West lake Landfill in North St. Louis County. Residents say their fear, their anxiety and their heartbreaks have multiplied in the 2020 pandemic because of weakened immune systems.

The COVID-19 virus can cause severe illness and death, especially for those with compromised immune systems. Many residents living in the vicinity of West Lake report that they already suffer ailments that they attribute to the nearby toxic landfill.

“The amount of fear and anxiety our community members have been forced to live with in regards to the landfill and toxins has doubled with COVID-19,” said Dawn Chapman, co-founder of Just Moms STL, an activist group that has fought for years for cleanup of the site. “Many of our residents are taking more extreme precautions in order to avoid this COVID-19 illness.

“If there is any good news, it is that we have learned to rely heavily on each other for support and other resources, while we have fought for a clean up at our site,” said Chapman. “Our community connections and relationships have really helped us during this viral pandemic. We are continuing to support and look after each other.”

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“Trees of Treloar” Project To Bring Back A Bit of Yesteryear’s Natural Setting

Photo: Magnificent Missouri. Left to right: Bill Spradley, Dan Burkhardt, and Mike Rood.

By Don Corrigan

Missouri’s bottom lands were once filled with tall trees and abundant wildlife supported by a sprawling tree canopy. Much of this natural area has been replaced by rows of corn and soybeans.

An organization called Magnificent Missouri wants to bring back a bit of yesteryear’s natural setting. It’s a project called “Trees of Treloar” and will focus on planting native Missouri trees near the Treloar Trailhead of the Katy Trail north of the meandering Missouri River.

“The Trees of Treloar will become a place to promote Magnificent Missouri’s goal of reforesting areas along the Katy Trail by planting trees along the trail route. This will be done in cooperation with Forest ReLeaf,” said Dan Burkhardt, the force behind Magnificent Missouri. “Trail users will love the shade and beauty, and pollinators and wildlife will appreciate the new habitat.”

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St. Louis Garners Green Energy Recognition

Photo by Diana Linsley.

By Don Corrigan

The St. Louis region has had its environmental woes from dioxin to lead to radioactive waste contamination. The city did recently get some good news with its inclusion in the Top 100 Major Cities for clean energy initiatives. The listing was  released this month by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

“St. Louis made impressive strides this past year by adopting a policy requiring many major buildings to improve their energy efficiency,” said ACEEE Local Policy Director David Ribeiro. “Only two other cities have passed bills like it, so St. Louis is in elite company.”

Among key findings in the ACEEE report are the top 15 cities, the two fastest-rising cities, and five laggards at the bottom of the ranking for clean energy efforts. The report analyzes the efforts of 100 major U.S. cities — home to 19 percent of the nation’s population — to make buildings and transportation more energy efficient and scale up the use of renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

“St. Louis took other innovative steps too to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, like ensuring that new large buildings are built in a manner where solar panels can easily be added,” said Ribeiro. “The city has been bold, and will need to continue taking bold policy action to achieve a clean energy future.”

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Preparing Students For Extraordinary Challenges at The College School in Webster Groves

All photos courtesy The College School.

by Don Corrigan

Most people agree we live in critical times and young people must be prepared for extraordinary challenges. Educators at The College School in Webster Groves say they are preparing students for those challenges – and they are putting money where it counts to make that preparation happen.

The school has invested several million dollars in a 28-acre LaBarque Campus in Pacific, Missouri. The project includes the 3,000-square-foot Jan Phillips Learning Center, which contains classroom, workshop, outdoor and community spaces. The project reflects concern for the environment, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

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Corrigan Comments On Recent Induction Into The St. Louis Media Hall of Fame

The St. Louis Media Hall of Fame Foundation recently posted on YouTube all of this year’s inductees, including Environmental Echo’s Don Corrigan.  A professor of journalism and long-time newspaper editor, Corrigan is introduced here by the Webster University School of Communications Dean Eric Rothenbuhler.

In his acceptance speech, Corrigan recalls his early years of journalism in grade school with his neighborhood newspaper. He ends his remarks with his interest in covering outdoor and environmental issues, from Times Beach to TMI radioactive rail shipments, to the radioactive waste problems such as those at West Lake and Coldwater Creek in the St. Louis region.

Corrigan also thanks the many inspirational women who have helped with his journalism projects over four decades.

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PANDEMIC CAN’T STOP HELLBENDER CONSERVATIONISTS FROM SAVING AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

Over 1,000 hellbenders from Saint Louis Zoo released into native Ozark rivers by Missouri Department of Conservation this summer

Hellbender at the Saint Louis Zoo. Photo by Ray Meibaum, Saint Louis Zoo

Over 1,000 Ozark and eastern hellbenders raised from eggs at the Saint Louis Zoo were released into their native Missouri Ozark rivers this summer by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) State Herpetologist Jeff Briggler, Ph.D., in cooperation with the Zoo and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Since 2008, more than 8,600 Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered hellbenders (664 eastern and 7,977 Ozark) have been reintroduced to the wild in Missouri.

The successful 2020 reintroductions almost didn’t happen, though, due to COVID-19. The team of scientists from MDC and the Zoo collaborated on a detailed plan that focused on personal safety of team members, while also providing the best care for the hellbenders and conservation of this species.

“The process was quite a bit different this year, with a lot of careful coordination on everyone’s part,” said Briggler. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the restoration team’s priority was to reduce contact and maintain social distancing among individuals. To achieve this, animal transfers from the Zoo staff to the state herpetologist occurred in open air parking lots. Crews releasing hellbenders also were reduced and limited to two individuals per boat. “Even with these safety precautions, release quotas of hellbenders were achieved and successfully conducted,” said Briggler.

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New Solar Surges in Gateway Region Despite Pandemic

Region’s Solar Group Buy Programs Provides Additional Discount for Program Participants 

The pandemic has prompted many people to make their households more efficient and for some St. Louis area residents that means investing in solar powerTwin programs, Grow Solar St. Louis and Grow Solar Metro East, make this process easier and more affordable. 

In 2020, more than 60 property owners have already committed to go solar through the programs. All are expected to be producing electricity before the end of the year. The 500 kW of new capacity will offset more than 700,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in their first year of operation. It will save solar homeowners roughly $40,000 on electricity bills, collectively, in that same time period. 

“Another 60 households are actively considering their own commitments, and hundreds of people are joining us to learn all about solar,”  said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Director for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which is co-facilitating the programs with local sponsors. “It’s really exciting to see how much interest there is in solar in the Gateway Region as we approach the September 30 program deadline.” 

Continue reading below for more information about the program.

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Derocho That Slammed Iowa Took Bite Out Of St. Louis

by Don Corrigan

The massive derocho storm that slammed Iowa on June 10, and that flattened large parts of the state, also took a bite out of northern Missouri and the St. Louis area. A derocho is a widespread straight-line wind storm that can rival tornadoes and hurricanes with its wind velocities.The June 10 squall line that ripped through Iowa destroyed more than a quarter of the state’s corn crop and left $4 billion in damages and several fatalities. St. Louis was hit with the southern edge of the storm that began in the Dakotas and moved across Iowa, Illinois and Lake Michigan.

The St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood, which is the only city in the metropolitan area that owns and operates its own electric utility, is still assessing the impact of the June 10 storm on its electrical operation.

“We’re still reviewing all the numbers,” said Mark Petty of Kirkwood Electric.  “But this may have been the worst storm for us since 2006.”

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St. Louis Photojournalist Documents Environmental Battles

Canoeists paddle in the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo courtesy Randall Hyman.

 

Pictured: Randall Hyman

By Don Corrigan

Fresh off a story about flooding and pollution on the Upper Mississippi River, photojournalist Randall Hyman of St. Louis is using a journalism award to fund an investigation into travails of the Navajo fighting oil companies wanting a piece of their native lands.

Hyman won a coveted Society of Environmental Journalism Award to cover expenses on a project entitled, “Betrayal in the Fog of Viral War,” a story on oil and gas companies exploiting native lands in New Mexico with the help of the  White House and the Interior Department.

“This Administration’s Bureau of Land Management has been trying to give away drilling rights and fracking permits on the native lands of the Navajo Nation,” Hyman explained. “It’s a little crazy now because the fracking industry is dead in the water in this economic downturn.

“The oil and gas industry has bankruptcies right and left,” said Hyman. “The fracking industry has never been profitable and it’s collapsing now with the lack of demand for oil in this pandemic economy.”

Read more of the article below.  

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Missouri Department of Agriculture Asks Residents to Report Unsolicited Seed Shipments

Information from the Missouri Department of Agriculture in reference to unsolicited seeds showing up in mailboxes from China. See guidance below about what to do if you or an acquaintance might receive the suspicious seeds in the mail.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has received reports from residents of unsolicited seeds being delivered from foreign countries such as China and surrounding areas. Missouri’s announcement follows several states who have also reported packages of these seeds being delivered across the United States. Consistent with nationwide reports, the packages were labeled as jewelry, specifically stud earrings, bracelets and other accessories.”

It is important to take steps to prevent the introduction of invasive species into Missouri to ensure safety of the environment, livestock and plants. The full risk associated with the seeds in question is unknown at this time. However, the seeds could be an invasive species that has the potential to destroy native plants and damage crops. Invasive species can also introduce diseases to plants and may be harmful to livestock.

If Missouri residents have received unsolicited seeds, the following guidance applies …  Continue reading from the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s announcement HERE.