Véronique LaCapra

Science Reporter

Science reporter Véronique LaCapra first caught the radio bug writing commentaries for NPR affiliate WAMU in Washington, D.C. After producing her first audio documentaries at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies in N.C., she was hooked! She has done ecological research in the Brazilian Pantanal; regulated pesticides for the Environmental Protection Agency in Arlington, Va.; been a freelance writer and volunteer in South Africa; and contributed radio features to the Voice of America in Washington, D.C. She earned a Ph.D. in ecosystem ecology from the University of California in Santa Barbara, and a B.A. in environmental policy and biology from Cornell. LaCapra grew up in Cambridge, Mass., and in her mother’s home town of Auxerre, France.

Ways To Connect

Kali takes a swim at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

This Saturday, St. Louisans will get their first chance to see the new polar bear at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The 2 1/2 year-old, 850-pound Kali arrived at the zoo in early May, but he has been kept out of sight since then for a health quarantine and to give him time to get used to his new surroundings.

Members of the media got an early look at Kali and the zoo's new polar bear exhibit space on Thursday. Here's St. Louis Public Radio's sneak preview!

May 2015 graduates. Front row from left to right: Sean Marks, Cory Chandler, Prince Farris-Settles, Alvin Love, Michael Harris (red shirt). Back row from left to right: Matt Hermeyer (white shirt), Paul Oryem, Sean Kempf, Joel Smith, Stacey Robinson.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding St. Louis Community College just over $190 thousand to continue its environmental job training program.

This is the fifth time that the college has received an EPA grant since 2000.

The Environmental Remediation Job Training program is a collaboration between St. Louis Community College and Saint Louis University. The community college recruits and selects the participants and helps connect graduates with potential employers; SLU provides the classroom facilities and conducts the training.

Microbiologist Mary-Dell Chilton works in her lab at Syngenta.
Syngenta

Mary-Dell Chilton pioneered the field of genetic engineering in agriculture.

She has spent most of her decades-long career working for Syngenta, where she founded the agribusiness company's research on genetically modified seeds.

But Chilton started out in academia. And it was here in St. Louis, at Washington University, that she led the team that created the first genetically-modified plants in the early 1980s.

Originally the Independent Brewing Company, this building was built in 1910. It falls within the planned stadium development, as do what may remain underground of the real St. Louis mounds and the Native American community that built them.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Plans for a new St. Louis football stadium seem to be moving ahead. Just last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the stretch of riverfront near the Edward Jones Dome a “perfect” location for the new sports venue.

But it is also the site of an ancient Native American city — and that is raising concerns.

An MSD crew works on a sanitation line in Webster Woods earlier this month.
Metropolitan St. Lewis Sewer District

Updated 3/19/15 to correct the bond amount being requested and add a link to the full rate change proposal.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District has proposed two major changes to the rates consumers pay for services and is holding a series of community meetings to explain them.

But even without the new proposals, everyone can expect to see their residential sewer rates continue to rise.

This photo of the former Carter Carburetor plant was taken in Aug. 2011, prior to the start of the cleanup.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3/13/15 after the meeting:

Demolition of the old Carter Carburetor plant on North Grand Avenue is expected to begin this summer.

That's according to HRP Associates, the main contractor for ACF Industries, the company responsible for much of the cleanup.

HRP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency described the projected remediation schedule at a public meeting Thursday night at the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club.

Ameren's Callaway reactor is the only commercial nuclear power plant in Missouri.
Missouri Coalition for the Environment

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating license for Ameren's Callaway nuclear power plant through 2044.

But ongoing litigation could quash that renewal.

The Solar Impulse 1 rests in its inflatable hangar at Lambert Airport after landing in St. Louis on June 4, 2013.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Two years ago, we reported on a solar plane that touched down in St. Louis on its way across the United States.

Now it's successor is on its way around the world.

Trucks dump their loads of single-stream recycling on the "tip floor" at Resource Management's Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Earth City, Mo.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

If you recycle at home, chances are you take advantage of a system called “single-stream” recycling: you mix all your bottles, newspapers, cans and containers together in a roll cart or dumpster, and a truck comes by once a week to pick them up.

But what happens next? Is that jumble of broken glass, paper, metal and plastic really getting recycled?

A little brown bat with white-nose syndrome hangs in Greeley Mine, Vt., in March 2009. The disease has sickened bats in 25 eastern U.S. states and five Canadian provinces.
Marvin Moriarty | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The fungal disease white-nose syndrome and other threats to bat survival will be at the top of the agenda of an international meeting being held this week in St. Louis.

The conference is expected to draw about 350 bat specialists from government agencies, academia, environmental consulting firms and non-profits in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks fields questions from the public at a press conference in Bridgeton in May 2014.
Credit Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The man who has been overseeing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's work in Missouri is moving on to join the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Here, Karl Brooks reflects on some of St. Louis' biggest issues, including West Lake Landfill.

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The Saint Louis County Department of Health is launching a survey to assess the health of people living near the Bridgeton Landfill.

An underground fire has been smoldering at the Bridgeton Landfill since 2010, causing odors emanating from the landfill to increase.

Wastewater from Ameren's coal-fired power plant in Franklin County discharges into the Missouri River.
Labadie Environmental Organization

Updated on 2/17/15:

Ameren’s coal-fired power plant in Labadie has been operating under an expired wastewater discharge permit since 1999.

In fact, all of Ameren's plants in the St. Louis area have expired National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits: Meramec's lapsed in 2005, and Rush Island's and Sioux's in 2009.

Urban Harvest STL's new farm will cover 10,000 sq. ft. on the roof of a two-story building in downtown St. Louis.
Artist's rendition courtesy of HOK

St. Louis will soon have its first rooftop farm.

Urban Harvest STL signed a lease for the space this week on the roof of a two-story building a couple of blocks east of the City Museum.

The non-profit’s founding director, Mary Ostafi, said the 10,000 sq. ft. rooftop will be more than just a community garden. “We’re going to have an outdoor classroom, as well as a gathering space for community events," Ostafi said. "We’ll be raising chickens and tending bees."

This diagram is an excerpt of “figure 1” from Ameren’s “Detailed Site Investigation,” showing the location of the company’s proposed coal ash landfill.
Ameren Missouri

There’s a new twist in the legal wrangling over Ameren’s plans to build a coal ash landfill in Franklin County.

On Tuesday, Ameren and Franklin County together filed a lawsuit against the Labadie Environmental Organization, a nonprofit made up of area residents opposing the landfill.

Franklin County residents hold up signs to show their opposition to Ameren's landfill plans at a meeting of the county commission in 2011, just before the commission voted to change its zoning regulations to allow coal ash landfills.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Ameren's ability to move ahead with building a coal ash landfill in Franklin County is now in some doubt.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed a lower court's dismissal of a case filed by Franklin County residents in an effort to block the landfill's construction.

In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court said the residents have a valid case and that the Franklin County Circuit Court must hear it.

State of Rhode Island Division of Planning

Time is running out to provide input on Missouri’s state energy plan.

The public comment period officially ends on Saturday, although the online form will likely remain available at least through the weekend.

Lewis Mills directs the state Division of Energy, which is developing the plan. He said so far, public comments have centered on a handful of themes.

Jenell Wright (front row, in blue) and Meagan Beckermann (second row, in light blue) were among the crowd of more than 100 that gathered to listen to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 1/29/15 after the meeting

More than a hundred people packed into a room at the Hazelwood Civic Center East Thursday night to hear the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talk about its cleanup of St. Louis radioactive waste sites.

PLOS ONE

A new analysis led by Washington University has shown a possible link between exposure to certain common, long-lasting chemicals and the earlier onset of menopause.

The researchers analyzed information from 1,442 menopausal women who had been tested for what are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals -- chemicals that can affect how hormones work in the body. The data were collected between 1999 and 2008 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as part of a national health and nutrition study.

These photos show the two-page order related to the Bridgeton Landfill, filed Friday in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
Provided by Republic Services and the Missouri Attorney General's Office

Updated Jan. 9 to add Republic Services' filings and Circuit Court order

Following a long afternoon of negotiations, Bridgeton Landfill owner Republic Services has agreed to install two temperature monitoring probes in the landfill's north quarry, near radioactive waste at the adjacent West Lake Landfill.

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