Pollution | St. Louis Public Radio

Pollution

7 Questions About Cancer-Causing Chemicals From Scott AFB Answered

Feb 21, 2020
Airman First Class Anthony Uelk, on the ladder, along with fellow 932nd Airlift Wing flight line crew chiefs, refuel a C-40 in preparation for a launch at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Christopher Parr | U.S. Air Force

This article was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Officials have just begun contacting people potentially affected by contamination from Scott Air Force Base after news broke last week that dangerous chemicals may have tainted drinking water.

Last week, the base joined a growing list of military installations where cancer-causing chemicals from firefighting materials have leaked into the ground and nearby water supplies. 

Dave Gullic, who works with the DNR's water quality monitoring section, nets a fish in Jefferson City's Binder Lake. The department samples fish tissues for mercury, as part of a monitoring process required by the EPA.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has identified a new batch of lakes and streams that do not meet water quality standards.

The state agency added 60 water bodies to this year’s draft list of impaired waters, including several in the greater St. Louis region. Many of the listed water bodies had high concentrations of bacteria or algae, often linked to runoff from cities, towns and farms.

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

About 11 years ago, a small group of residents in Labadie learned that the power plant in their town owned massive pits of toxic waste known as coal ash ponds.

They discovered that the Labadie Energy Center — Ameren Missouri’s largest coal-fired power plant — has two basins packed with byproducts from coal combustion. The waste includes toxic, cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

For more than 50 years, utility companies have filled largely unlined coal ash ponds with harmful waste. But the state has never regulated them or required their owners to test groundwater nearby for contamination. A Washington University data analysis recently found high levels of groundwater contamination near the ponds.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Ozone pollution in St. Louis has slightly improved, according to the 2018 State of the Air report released this month by the American Lung Association. Despite the improvements, the metro area is still ranked the 29th most polluted in the nation.

Susannah Fuchs, the director of clean air at the American Lung Association in Missouri, said one of the reasons St. Louis is still on the list is because of stricter clean air standards.

The "plume" of TCE-contaminated groundwater in Elmwood Park is shown in light blue in the top left of this map.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

After years of concern, residents of Elmwood Park aren't any closer to knowing if they are being harmed by chemical vapors.

In the late 1980s, the industrial chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE, was first detected in groundwater under the North St. Louis County neighborhood. The contamination came from spills at the nearby Missouri Metals Shaping Company.

Toxic Site In Metro East Enters New Phase Of Cleanup

Oct 30, 2013
(via US Environmental Protection Agency)

The US Environmental Protection Agency held a community meeting in Hartford, Illinois, on Wednesday, to inform residents about the ongoing cleanup of the former Chemetco copper smelter.

This is the second of three open houses being held this year. Another will be held in December.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

A small but vocal group of protesters gathered outside Ameren Missouri's headquarters in St. Louis today to voice their opposition to the company's plans to build several new coal ash landfills.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 10, 2012 - Despite being named to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Toxic 20” list for the second year in a row, Missouri has seen a significant decrease in its  power plant pollution emissions.

“The case for cleaning up the Toxic 20 states is clear,” said John Walke, senior attorney and clean air director for the NRDC, during a conference call with journalists Thursday. “Some utilities are already choosing to get the job done, which means that others can follow suit and do the same.”

GOP 'war' on EPA focuses on cost of regulations

Jul 11, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 11, 2012 - WASHINGTON – In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency opened its doors with an aggressive new chief, later dubbed “Mr. Clean,” and an independent charter to promote clean air and water across the country.

Local tugboats to run cleaner with help of federal grant

Jun 19, 2012
Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Some Mississippi River tugboats will be getting an upgrade thanks to a federal grant aimed at reducing air pollution.

The more than $300,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will go toward new, cleaner-burning diesel engines for the tugboats.

One of those boats was on view this morning at JB Marine Service, Inc., the barge cleaning and repair company that received the EPA grant.

St. Louis to get $400,000 from EPA to clean up polluted sites

May 24, 2012
(Amy Lampe/SLDC)

The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $400,000 in grants to the St. Louis Development Corporation. The funds will be used to assess and plan for cleaning up hazardous substances.

EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks says the Agency has a long history of working with the SLDC to clean up contaminated properties, also known as brownfields.

(via EPA.gov)

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public meeting tonight in East St. Louis. 

The agency will to explain its proposed plan to clean up the North Alcoa site. The property is bounded on the north by Lake Drive, on the east by the Alton and Southern railroad, on the south by Missouri Avenue and on the west by 29th Street.

EPA's remedial project manager for the 400-acre site, Dion Novak, says the area is contaminated with waste products produced over 100 years ago by a former alumina refinery.

(via flickr/benclark)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a new tool that allows the public to access information about pollutants that are released into local waterways.

The Discharge Monitoring Report Pollutant Loading Tool brings together millions of records and lets users search for and map water pollution.

Carter Carburetor site to get new security fencing

Nov 15, 2011
(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Environmental Protection Agency is following through on its commitment to fence off the former Carter Carburetor manufacturing plant in north St. Louis.

The 10-acre property is contaminated with asbestos, PCBs, and other industrial pollutants.

Report ranks St. Louis 10th smoggiest U.S. city

Sep 22, 2011

A new report released today by the advocacy group Environment Missouri ranks St. Louis as the 10th smoggiest metropolitan area in the country.

(Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

A new study shows that despite decades of effort to reduce nitrate pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, concentrations remain as high today as they were in the 1980s.

The U.S. Geological Survey conducted the study, which looked at nitrate levels at eight sites on the Mississippi, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio rivers.

USGS hydrologist and study lead Lori Sprague said the next step will be to figure out where the pollution is coming from.

(via Flickr/Toehk)

The Saint Louis University School of Public Health is launching a study to look at the effects of urban air pollution on pregnant women in China.

SLU epidemiologist Zhengmin Qian says the research will track the pregnancies of 100,000 women in Wuhan, a city of nine million people in central China.

EPA looks for water contamination near Birds Point levee

May 24, 2011
(via Birds Point New Madrid Floodway Joint Information Center facebook page/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The Environmental Protection Agency is looking for possible water contamination in Southeastern Missouri, in the area affected by the Birds Point levee breach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up a Mississippi River levee at Birds Point on May 2 to protect upstream communities like Cairo, Ill.

The levee breach flooded 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland, including a confined animal feeding operation.

Illinois, Missouri among nation's top mercury polluters

Feb 10, 2011

Updated at 5:00 p.m. with comment from Ameren Missouri.

A new report suggests that power plants in Illinois and Missouri are among the nation’s top emitters of mercury pollution.

Mercury can cause serious health problems for both wildlife and people who eat contaminated fish.

St. Louis companies look to go green with clean tech

Jul 31, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 31, 2008 - Tim Gray considers himself to be an environmentalist, one who believes that being "green" is good for business as well as for the environment.

"I think helping people to be more green, by saving them money, is a very powerful way to help change the country for the better," says Gray, who as chief executive of St. Louis-based Waste Remedies LLC helps his clients cut waste.