Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

National Integrated Drought Information System

St. Louis' weather forecast this week is rain, rain and more rain, yet that's good news for a region that's in the midst of a drought. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin says a dry weather pattern began last summer. He says that dry pattern continued into the fall — typically the wetter part of the year in Missouri — creating moderate to extreme drought throughout the state. 

"In terms of precipitation deficits since that time, anywhere from 8 to as much as 16 inches below normal, for that six to seven months," Gosselin said.

Nurses for Newborns chief executive officer Melinda Ohlemiller talked about the organization's continued efforts to provide perinatal services to at-risk families.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

For more than two decades, Nurses for Newborns have stepped in to help more than 100,000 families lacking in resources to care for their newborn babies.

On Friday's St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about services provided by Nurses for Newborns to provide a safety net and improve the outcomes of at-risk infants. Joining him for the discussion was Nurses for Newborns chief executive officer Melinda Ohlemiller.

Listen to the full discussion about the organization’s mission and services:

An active coal-ash pond at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Over the next five years, Ameren Missouri plans to close the ponds it uses to dump the byproduct of its coal-fired power plants.

The company has 15 ponds among its four power plants. Ameren closed two out of the nine ponds at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County earlier this year. Coal-fired power plants have traditionally used water to handle coal ash, but recent advances in technology are allowing utilities such as Ameren to use dry systems instead.

via Saint Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church

The mother of a south St. Louis woman believed to have shot her infant, her husband and herself earlier this month says that her daughter suffered from postpartum depression.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Polly Fick told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Thursday when asked if her daughter had postpartum depression. “But because of her background and working as a social worker, I think she was of the opinion that she could handle things.”

Across the country, states desperate to prevent opioid addiction are considering medical cannabis as a solution.

Citing the opioid crisis, lawmakers in several states are looking to initiate or expand their medical marijuana programs including KentuckyNew YorkNew Jersey and Indiana. And in Illinois, where opioids have claimed nearly 11,000 lives over the past decade, the legislature is considering a measure that would allow patients with an opioid prescription to get access to marijuana instead.


The West Lake Landfill, seen from St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated March 5 with new public comments deadline  The Environmental Protection Agency has released the full details of its proposal to remove radioactive waste from the West Lake Landfill. The agency will make a final decision after a public comment period.

This story was originally published February 6. It has been updated as of February 9 at 1 pm.

The Atchison-Holt Ambulance District spans two counties and 1,100 square miles in the far northwest corner of Missouri. The EMTs who drive these ambulances cover nearly 10 times more land area than their counterparts in Omaha, the nearest major city. 

 Heart expert Dr. Andrew Kates explains topics relating to heart health.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

The heart is a familiar symbol of love, but the diseases of the organ can kill. February is Heart Health Month, and we invited our heart expert Dr. Andrew Kates, professor of medicine and cardiologist with the Washington University Heart Care Institute at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, back on the program to help explain the matters of the heart.

The coral reefs of West Papua, which are more diverse than any other marine ecosystem on Earth.
Shaun MacGillivray | 2018 IMAX Corporation and MacGillivray Freeman Films

Writer, producer and director Mark Krenzien’s 40-year-film career has led him on a long list of adventures. He’s worked on the “Making Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’” documentary, swam alongside humpback whales and often filmed in far-flung locations, including war-torn Iraq, earthquake ravaged Haiti and a giant NASA clean room.

The West Lake Landfill, in the distance, sits adjacent to the Bridgeton Landfill.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated on March 5 to note new deadline for public comments  — The Environmental Protection Agency has released its plan for cleaning up radioactive waste at West Lake Landfill.

But officials say they still want to hear from community members on all the proposed remedies, not just the one the agency selected.

The EPA asked for feedback on three elements of its plan: Does the EPA’s proposed excavation plan address public concerns regarding the thoroughness of the removal? How should excavation differ between waste areas? And, where should the radioactive material go after it’s removed? Access all the plan’s documents on the EPA’s website.

Residents who live near West Lake Landfill gathered at John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Bridgeton after the EPA announced its remediation plan. (Feb 1, 2018)
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

When the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced its plan to remove much of the radioactive waste from the West Lake Landfill, some activists and residents celebrated.

But many residents expressed frustration and disappointment that only some of the waste would be removed before the site is covered. They said they’re still concerned about groundwater contamination, which might not be prevented by a partial removal, and worried that they might not be able to move away if the government doesn’t come up with a buyout plan. Some still don’t trust that the EPA can deliver on its promises.

The West Lake Landfill, in the distance, sits adjacent to the Bridgeton Landfill.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh went Behind the Headlines to discuss the aftermath of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision on a partial removal of World War II-era radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill, in northwest St. Louis County.

Washington University scientists are identifying genetic features of flu viruses to investigate how to predict flu pandemics.
Credit Jacco Boon and Graham Williams | Washington University St. Louis

Washington University scientists are identifying genetic features of flu viruses to investigate how to predict flu pandemics. 

In a study published in the Nature Communications journal, researchers Jacco Boon, Graham Williams, and Sebla Kutluay write that focusing on the genetic makeup of a flu virus can determine how they replicate and mutate.

Darryl Munden talks about Rx Outreach,  a non-profit pharmacy providing low-cost prescriptions for people in need.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

A local company is providing prescriptions for underserved, low income and chronically ill people.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about Rx Outreach, a non-profit organization based in Maryland Heights, which is a fully licensed mail-order pharmacy. Joining the discussion was Darryl Munden, president of Rx Outreach.

The organization started as a program in 2004 within Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit management in the United States.

The West Lake Landfill, in the distance, sits adjacent to the Bridgeton Landfill, right.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency proposal to partially remove nuclear weapons waste from a northwest St. Louis County landfill marks a major shift in approach to a problem that’s plagued residents for decades.

Since 1990, federal officials have either passed the buck on remediating West Lake Landfill or proposed building a cap over the site, which does little to prevent the tons of radioactive waste from contaminating groundwater.

On Thursday, EPA head Scott Pruitt announced his “Excavation Plus” proposal to remove much of the waste, which is about 600 feet from an underground fire in the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill, and permanently cover the rest.

Here's a guide to our coverage.

The West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, seen from St. Charles Rock Road.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3 p.m. to clarify how much waste would be removed and with additional reaction  — The Environmental Protection Agency has decided on a partial removal of World War II-era radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill, in northwest St. Louis County.

The EPA proposed a remedy that would remove “the majority of the radioactive material” and construct a cover system to “best protect the community of Bridgeton over the long term,” the agency said today in a news release.

BJC Healthcare is completing two new medical towers.
Huy Mach | Washington University School of Medicine

Doctors at Washington University will soon be able to provide better treatment to infants in critical care and their mothers.

The Barnes-Jewish Parkview Tower will house patients from the Siteman Cancer Center and the Women and Infants Center. It will be connected by skywalk to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Tower.

That connection will allow doctors to transfer infants in critical condition to the neonatal intensive care unit in the event of an emergency. It will also allow doctors to more quickly unite mothers with their newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit.

(L-R) Gillian MacQuarrie, Eli Chen and Kristen Oncken talked about the need for more representation of women in STEM fields.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

There is a stark imbalance in the scientific community, a field largely dominated by men. 500 Women Scientists in an international effort seeking to fix the imbalance and create an inclusive scientific community.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with local members of the grassroots organization about local activities taking place that will introduce more women and people of color to the science fields.

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

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to soon announce its plans to clean up the waste in West Lake Landfill. For people who live near the landfill in north St. Louis County, the decision couldn’t come soon enough, as the waste sits approximately 600 feet from an underground smoldering fire.

The landfill has been on the EPA’s National Priorities List since 1990. Eighteen years later, the EPA under the administration of President George W. Bush recommended capping the landfill. The waste has sat at the site since its former owner, Cotter Corporation, dumped it there in 1973.

EPA officials may decide to remove the waste entirely, remove it in part, or cap the site.

Microgrid installed two solar arrays at Busch Stadium.
Microgrid Energy

The 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels President Donald Trump announced this week could hurt Missouri's solar companies.

Prices of imported solar panels already are rising as companies want to buy them before the tariff takes effect, said Steve O'Rourke, vice president of business development at St. Louis-based Microgrid Energy.

The price of solar panels has been in flux since last fall, when the U.S. International Trade Commission found that imports hurt two domestic manufacturers and recommended a tariff to protect them. However, the U.S. solar industry imports 80 percent of its solar products, mainly from China.

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