Category Archives: Environment


Radioactive Nightmare Continues: Never-Ending Story Of How St. Louis Pays For Atomic Age

“We need not even make war; only by preparing, by playing with our new weapons, we poison the air, the water, the soil of our plants, damage the health of the living, and weaken the chances of the newborn.”   —  Martha Gellhorn, War Correspondent

By Don Corrigan

A new book published at the end of 2022 explains the complex and  traumatic legacy of the atomic age in the St. Louis region. Given the half-life of radioactive materials, it seems no book can ever be the last word on what is a continual crisis.

Many American baby boomers can recall their fathers explaining to them that the atomic bomb was necessary to end World War II; that the human loss would have been much worse without it; that the legacy of the bomb was likely a Pax Americana and a lasting peace.

The baby boomers’ fathers had it wrong. They did not realize how atomic weapons would proliferate; how they would become more lethal; and, how the contaminant byproducts of the first bombs would endlessly plague the “Gateway City” of the American Midwest.

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Environmentalists Defend Initiatives: State Legislators At Odds With ‘Will Of The People’

By Don Corrigan

Environmentalists are among those opposed to actions by the Missouri legislature to cripple the initiative process in the state. They say the initiative process is often the only way to get environmental protections enacted in Missouri.

In the past, environmental groups have used the process on issues such as renewable energy and the financing of nuclear power facilities. In Missouri, these groups have included the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and the Sierra Club.

The initiative process has been dubbed as a “will of the people” mechanism. That’s because measures are approved by a statewide majority of voters, rather than passed by lawmakers in the statehouse where they can be beholden to special interests..

In this year’s session in Jefferson City, lawmakers have seemed determined to codify their disdain for the grassroots democracy of initiatives placed on the ballot by petition.

Legislators have introduced a slew of proposals to effectively nullify state voters’ use of the initiative petition process. They are intent on erecting hurdles that make it virtually impossible for residents to put proposals on the state ballot.

In January, despite overwhelming opposition – 96 percent of committee testimony opposed one such nullification bill – the Missouri House proceeded anyway to rush out approval of a bill to undermine the initiative petition process.

The Missouri House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials heard five bills on Jan. 24, and voted four of the attacks on the petition process out for consideration. The action was taken even as testimony opposing the bills ran five-to-one against the supportive comments.

In February, unhappy constituents lined up in a capitol hearing, one after another, to describe the state initiative petition process as “direct, pure democracy” that should not be thrown in the trash bin of Missouri statehouse history.

Media Voice Concerns

Missouri’s media outlets also have come out swinging against the legislature’s insistence on quashing the ballot initiative process. They note that voters have used the initiative process for Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana, a minimum wage hike, collective bargaining protections and use of renewable energy.

“The argument for tightening the initiative petition process is based on the mistaken assumption that it is too easy now to get a measure passed. It isn’t,” declared the Joplin Globe on Jan. 22. “Most measures that are attempted don’t succeed.

“Medicaid expansion is a good example of why we need this,” the Globe continued. “It was evident for a long time that Missourians favored this, yet it got nowhere in Jefferson City, so voters took the matter into their hands, putting the amendment on the ballot, and then approving it 53% to 47%, bypassing lawmakers altogether.”

Both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star have published strongly worded opinion pieces against the legislature’s moves to sabotage citizen ballot initiatives. Many papers around the state, including the Columbia Missourian and Columbia Tribune, ran op-eds opposing the attacks on the voters’ will.

The on-line Kansas City Beacon stressed how many important issues only saw the light of day precisely because citizens got out and worked to get signed petitions necessary to get measures on the ballot. The Beacon noted that in recent years, lawmakers have altered or jettisoned laws and constitutional changes approved by voters.

In 2010, Missourians approved a ballot measure to enact tighter restrictions on puppy mills. In the spring session following that vote, the animal protections were repealed or watered down by the state legislature.

A similar reversal came in 2020 after Missourians passed Clean Missouri, a far-reaching ethics ballot measure, which was opposed by state politicians. It was later repealed after the legislature took steps to insure a reversal.

The Kansas City Beacon noted that Missouri does not need to make it even harder for the citizens to express their will at the ballot box. Rather, Missouri needs to pass a bill to guard the people’s will after it is articulated and affirmed by state voters. The reversals need to stop.

In its Dec. 13, 2022 piece, the Beacon cited a bill introduced by Rep. Joe Adams of St. Louis to guard against reversal of the people’s will. Under Adams’ bill, no measure approved by voters could be amended, watered down or repealed by state legislators.

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Environment At Fault? Hey, Valentine, Statistics Show Loss Of Courting, Romance

Happy Valentine’s Day!

By Don Corrigan

Do couples go courting anymore? Is dating an obsolete art? Is real romance dead on arrival? Do we now just “Do It In The Road,” if at all, as Beatle John Lennon used to sing?

Some alarming national statistics show that fewer Americans are courting, dating and marrying. Romancing is just something that old people talk about when recalling their favorite “make-out sites” or their necking at drive-in movies.

Census data shows extremely low marriage rates among millennials and Gen Z-ers ­– only 29 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds were married in 2018, compared to 59 percent of young people of comparable age in 1978.

Dour statistics on courting and marriage have beget screaming headlines about the “marriage crisis,” “rudderless young men” and “the end of marriage” in national magazines.

Liberals blame the demise of love on social media and Tinder. Young people use Apps to hook up for one-night stands with no end-game. They are looking for love in all the wrong places. Actually, they aren’t looking for love at all.

Conservatives blame a liberal culture that promotes same-sex relationships rather than traditional marriage; and, a culture that conditions young men to avoid responsibility and steady jobs that could support marriage and family.

Conservative U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri says young men are taught in school that the male gender is toxic, so they are demoralized. Hawley has vowed to address the situation with a new book, slated to come out in May, to be titled, “Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs.”

In fact, the decline in courting, dating and marriage may not have much to do with politics at all, so hold off on the blame games and political finger-pointing. Some experts advise looking at science for an explanation.

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Environmentalists Blast Sand Mining Plan In Ste. Genevieve Area

By Don Corrigan
Not since the Holcim Cement Kiln proposal in 2006 have environmentalists in Eastern Missouri been as concerned about a proposal for industrial land use in St. Genevieve.  At issue now: A NexGen Silica mining plan.
On March 4, 2022, Nexgen Silica submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Land Reclamation Program, an application for a permit for a sandstone mine in Ste. Genevieve County along Highway 32 for 249 acres.

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Coloring Book’s “Smart Bird” Gives Kids Road Safety Tips

Just in time for the holidays, Terry the Turkey Vulture swoops down to give children smart tips on keeping safe around roadways. Terry’s advice also applies to children’s pets, who do need a little “coloring” in the book.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every five children under the age of 15 killed in traffic crashes was a pedestrian. Kids are at risk of crash injuries, even when they are not inside a vehicle. Adults can help protect their young ones with tips about road safety.

Terry says: “Let’s All Be Safe on Roadways.” The coloring book’s message is that motorists must drive defensively and walkers must walk defensively. When you’re at a marked crosswalk, don’t assume that oncoming drivers will stop.

In 2022, St. Louis was shocked when residents were killed trying to cross Chippewa Street to get to a popular city custard stand. Pedestrian deaths are a concern for everyone. St. Louis suburbs also have lost residents to crosswalk accidents and curbside collisions.

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Wildlife Man Of Costa Rica: St. Louis Man Writes Guides To Frogs & Reptiles of Central America

Photos provided by David Norman.

by Don Corrigan

David Norman is a friend to frogs and reptiles of Central America. A Webster Groves 1972 high school grad, he recently took time out from field work in Costa Rica to visit with friends from a half century ago at his reunion.

“Some of my Webster buddies have been down to see me, so I don’t feel too far away,” said Norman. “Cory Gardiner and his wife have come down. So has Bill Clark and his wife. There is a lot to see in Costa Rica.

“I always take visitors to an active volcano, and a cloud forest, and a much wetter rainforest, and the beaches and national parks,” said Norman. “My regular work is as a tour guide and teacher for colleges offering study abroad credits.”

Norman always is happy to introduce the frogs and reptiles of Costa Rica to American visitors. After all, he wrote the books on these creatures, including “Common Amphibians of Costa Rica” and a field guide to similar animals in the Santa Rosa and Palos Verde national parks.

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“Tiger Connector” Planned: Kirkwood Electric Gets A Bit Of Good News On Energy Front

by Don Corrigan

This Halloween season, energy consumers are getting frightening news about proposed price hikes for electric, natural gas, heating oil and more. Kirkwood Electric recently informed customers of an increase per kilowatt hour for their electricity.

Kirkwood Electric Director Mark Petty said he does see light at the end of the tunnel – some cheaper, greener energy is in Kirkwood’s future. He said this is because Kirkwood belongs to a city consortium supporting the Grain Belt Express, which has scored some recent successes.

The Grain Belt Express is a transmission line designed to bring in power from wind turbines in southwest  Kansas. The project developer is Chicago-based Invenergy, which has now navigated objections to the line from rural legislators and groups like the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Invenergy recently announced that its energy delivery, via Missouri electric towers, will increase five-fold from 500 to 2,500 megawatts. The plan also now adds an extra 40-mile line, to be called the “Tiger Connector,” to enter the electrical grid tying in at Callaway County.

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The 10,000th Hellbender Released by Missouri Department of Conservation and Saint Louis Zoo

Hellbender released in the MO Ozarks. Photo: MDC

The Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are celebrating a historic milestone in hellbender conservation in Missouri. As of August 2022, the total Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered Ozark and eastern hellbenders released into the wild since 2008 now numbers over 10,000 individuals.

“This is the largest number of animals the Saint Louis Zoo has ever raised in human care and released to the wild and is one of the largest amphibian reintroduction programs in the world,” said Justin Elden, Curator of Herpetology, Saint Louis Zoo, and Director of the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Ron and Karen Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation. “To date, this is the most successful hellbender release program in the country and it would not be possible without collaborative efforts between the Zoo, MDC and other partners over the last 15 years.”

“When we began the hellbender conservation program over 20 years ago the idea of returning this many hellbenders into native rivers was a dream goal and almost impossible to imagine at the time,” said Jeff Briggler, Ph.D., MDC State Herpetologist. “It has been a lot of hard work and dedication from many people and partner conservation organizations, and while we recognize the significance of this milestone, the work is far from over. We will continue to help protect this species from extinction.”

The 10,000th hellbender, which was one of 235 hellbenders released into a Missouri Ozark river on August 10, 2022, by MDC and Zoo team members, was a nearly 4-year-old Ozark hellbender. This hellbender was returned to the same river where it was collected as an egg in 2018 by MDC to be hatched and raised at the Zoo.

MDC and Zoo staff release Ozark hellbender. Photo: MDC

“This particular river means a lot to those of us involved in the conservation of this species, as it’s the same river where the first release occurred in 2008,” said Briggler. River locations are not identified for animal safety reasons.

By the end of summer 2022, 811 Ozark and eastern hellbenders raised from eggs at the Zoo will have been released into their native Missouri Ozark rivers by MDC this year, in cooperation with the Zoo and other federal partners.

Since 2008, 10,206 Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered hellbenders (9,034 Ozark hellbenders and 1,172 eastern hellbenders), including first- and second-generation Zoo-bred animals, have been reintroduced to the wild in Missouri.

“Our Zoo animal care professionals are dedicated to caring for this endangered salamander and doing everything we can to help preserve this species,” said Elden.

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Cool As A Beatles’ Song: Kirkwood Sojourners Rally At Unique Artesian Spring

Karl Kruse, Don Corrigan, Ila Irl, Bill Spradley and Kyle Moylan celebrate the cold, clear waters of the Sycamore Valley Artesian Well in the Missouri Ozarks. All photos by Bill Ruppert.

by Don Corrigan

Just as four Beatles looked for “Norwegian Wood” in a cooler clime in 1965, some area residents looked for an artesian well recently in sizzling 2022 heat. Ozark wells offer cool, flowing water, even when its 100+ degrees.

“I love taking people to see the artesian well at Sycamore Valley,” said Bill Spradley, a Kirkwood  businessman who owns a farm near the well in the Ozark country. “The water is cold, pure, refreshing and it flows constantly.

“It gets a lot of visitors from the locals, but also from all over the country,” added Spradley. “It even gets travel reviews on Google.”

Indeed, the artesian well east of Fredericktown and south of Highway 72 has a gaggle of Google reviews. One advises visitors to take “all kinds of jugs” because the waters are “just a thing you’ll have to experience.”

Spradley, who works during the week in Kirkwood at his Trees, Forests and Landscapes, Inc., will retreat to his Ozark hideaway on weekends. At an intersection of roads just south of his homestead is an amazing water flow that never, ever goes quiet.

It started in the late 1940s, when a shaft was sunk more than 1,200 feet below ground. However, it was not black gold that erupted from the depths. It was clear, cold water under natural pressure and gushing at 50 gallons per minute.

An artesian well releases spring water and requires no pumps. The most famous artesian wells are located in Artois, France. Artois was known as the “Roman City of Wells” in the Middle Ages.

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Crayfish Critters: Memories Past, Present-Day Concerns

All photos courtesy The Missouri Department of Conservation.

By Don Corrigan

Crayfish, the “poor man’s lobsters,” were once in abundance in streams of Webster-Kirkwood in suburban St. Louis. Watersheds at Gravois Creek, Sugar Creek, Deer Creek and Shady Creek hosted many of the six-legged fellows.

When freed slaves settled areas near the creeks in North Webster Groves after the Civil War, the streams provided drinking water, recreation and food sources for the liberated residents.

A crayfish boil with melted butter could offer a kingly meal. Vegetable gardens in family plots provided plenty of side dishes to go along with the “crawdaddies” harvested by young boys.

Crayfish boils – and local streams full of the tiny “lobsters,” – seem to be a thing of the past. Experts with the Webster Groves Nature Study Society and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) have an explanation for the disappearance.

“Crayfish suffer in suburban areas because of the runoff from herbicides and the pesticides used on lawns,” said Rich Thoma of the local nature society. “Some species are very sensitive to degradations in their habitat.

“When the crayfish suffer, sometimes other species of dragonflies and frogs take a hit also,” explained Thoma. “That’s because the crayfish burrow into the mud to make their homes, and other creatures then use the burrows for their homes.”

When crayfish disappear, the burrow homes for the dragonflies and frogs disappear. It’s a classic case of ecological breakdown.

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