The Historic St. Louis Flooding: What We Should Have Known

Pictured: Bob Criss. Photo provided by Bob Criss.

Pictured: Bob Criss at the Meramec River last October. Photo provided by Bob Criss.

“Our flood problems in St. Louis and St. Louis County have been hugely magnified by what I would call idiotic decisions since 1993 especially,” Bob Criss said. “And we knew better.”

Olde Towne Fenton under floodwaters on Wednesday, Dec. 30, prior to the Meramec River cresting early Thursday morning, Dec. 31. Photo by Diana Linsley, Webster-Kirkwood Times.

Olde Towne Fenton under floodwaters on Wednesday, Dec. 30. Photo by Diana Linsley, Webster-Kirkwood Times.

Professor Bob Criss, with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University, is the special guest on this edition of “Behind the Editor’s Curtain” with Don Corrigan.

Criss talks with Don Corrigan about the recent flooding in St. Louis, the decisions being made he thinks facilitates more frequent and severe flooding and the consequences of allowing development in flood plains.


Produced by Holly Shanks. Music provided by House of Cowboy.

Photo updated January 19, 2016.

4 responses to “The Historic St. Louis Flooding: What We Should Have Known

  1. Look for a major story on the causes of the extreme Meramec flooding in the Friday, Jan. 22, editions of the Webster-Kirkwood Times and South County Times. A portion of this interview with Prof. Criss, along with observations by local officials, will be included in the upcoming stories. Prof. Criss has a lot to say about how we are magnifying flood impacts with what he calls “idiotic development” in flood plains.


  2. It concerns me that I’ve read almost nothing about the DNR and EPA responses to raw sewage flowing into the Meramec River due to recent record flooding. Two MSD treatment plants (Valley Park and Fenton) were flooded and contaminated downstreams areas in and along the Meramec River. A sewer main in North County broke, which spilled raw sewage into the already somewhat radioactive Coldwater Creek, which flows into the Missouri River.

    Aside from immediate warnings to citizens to avoid contact with the flood waters and wash thoroughly afterwards if contact is unavoidable, I’ve seen/heard almost nothing since then about the amount of raw sewage that was released, the actual composition of the untreated organic and inorganic waste, the ppm estimates of contaminants in the rivers and impact on scoured banks and flooded lands.

    What is MSD’s response to this situation short-term and long-term?

    What efforts are underway within DNR to assess and address this situation?

    What efforts are underway within the EPA in responding to the spillage of how many gallons of raw sewage into the Meramec, Missouri, Mississippi Rivers and onto flooded lands?

    It’s my understanding that MSD is already under fire from the EPA for previous ‘spills’ of raw sewage into our region’s watershed.

    Let’s not forget that raw sewage is not just untreated human waste, but also a whole host of household chemicals washed down our kitchen sinks and flushed down our toilets.

    Have water tests have been conducted by any agency to properly assess the immediate hazard to humans and the future impact on the overall health of these aquatic and riparian ecosystems?

    What steps are being taken to ensure that the sewage treatment plants are shored up or relocated so they are not impacted the next time the Meramec overflows its banks?

    Certainly, we recently experienced record rainfall, but what role do re-engineering of the floodplains and constricting the river channel with levees play in exacerbating the effects of the recent record flooding?

    The swift, swollen Meramec River at Emmenegger Park in Kirkwood caused a rather unusual amount of erosion and scouring of the river bank, which widened the channel and claimed several feet of park land.


  3. Wow! I just listened to Don’s interview with Dr. Robert Criss (above.) It is fantastic! Every regional decision-maker should hear it. Personally I am very concerned about flooding, as I never want to see our beautiful Meramec River dammed or culverted like River Des Peres because of lack of foresight, discussion and intelligent decision-making. Thank you Don and Dr. Criss for attention to these issues, and please keep up the great work!


  4. What can be done to stop the city of Kirkwood from further developing the floodplain in green tree park with athletic infrastructure and more parking lots and ball fields – all of which remove vital vegetation in the flood plain, waste tax payers dollars and exacerbate flooding conditions. The parks master plan said residents wanted parkland left in a nature state… Not developed. Who is listening to the science and the people?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.