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“Environmental Missouri: Issues and Sustainability–What you need to know,” by Don Corrigan, Webster University Press, St. Louis, MO, 2014. This 242-page paperback tells of environmental issues with examples from Missouri. The book is divided into six sections describing earth, water, air, national issues, and sustainability. A total of 45 articles present each issue with a photograph, a one or two page summary, followed by a Q&A section, and references. The subject is presented from the environmental point of view with little discussion of the tradeoffs that might be involved. The treatment is often superficial and non-technical. Presumably this book is intended for an introductory course on the environment.

Many of the articles are excellent, but a few raise eyebrows. The article on McMansions bemoans the replacement of traditional homes by large oversized mansions often on small lots. Corrigan cites a $26.7MM home in Lake St. Louis and says they do not fit in the community and are going out of style. Yet, many older homes were built with one bathroom and two bedrooms. Today many prefer a 2000 sf or more house with three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and ideally a three-car garage. Where an easy commute, good schools and low taxes come together, tearing down old housing to build something new and modern makes sense. Such communities renew themselves and are likely to survive long term. Others risk obsolescence.

When many sewers were built they carried sewage to the nearest creek. Sewers were designed to combine storm water and sanitary sewers. These can overflow during thunderstorms releasing sewage. Sewage overflows became illegal in 1972. Metropolitan Sewer District in St. Louis reached an agreement with EPA to address the issue in 2011. Sewer bills are rising. In the Q&A section, Kathleen Logan Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment reports the Federal government made grants available to upgrade sewers in 1970s and 1980s, but St. Louis failed to participate due to its 92 fragmented municipalities and numerous separate sewer systems.

An article addresses River Des Peres in St. Louis, which carries a sewer main and is lined most of its length from a WPA project. Corrigan suggests it should be returned to its natural condition.

Asian carp are an invasive species that may now be 60% of the fish in inland rivers. The book reports they are tasty and suggests they should be harvested and served.

A chapter on lead discusses its toxicity, the tailings from lead mining in Missouri and the use of lead pigments for centuries. Not mentioned is the recent discovery from Flint, MI, that many older homes have lead pipes bringing water from the water main into their homes. These are subject to corrosion. But one should also note that for years, toothpaste was packaged in lead tubes.

A chapter on mercury notes that much is emitted by coal burning powerplants. Technology has been developed to capture the mercury but utilities have been reluctant to install it. For years, many of us had mercury amalgam fillings in our teeth.

The article on landfills focuses on their generation of methane. Mountains of trash continue to grow. Incineration of the trash for energy remains an excellent solution to the problem, but is not mentioned. Recycling helps but now we know most was going to China for processing. Better practices are needed.

Times Beach’s dioxin contamination receives attention as do the nuclear waste landfills especially in Weldon Springs, MO.

The plastics article emphasizes the need for recycling but does not include current concerns of discarded plastics in the ocean. There is no mention of the potential to burn plastics for their fuel value or the possible use of plastics that degrade in the environment.

Topics covered are too numerous to name. Surprisingly there is discussion of clean air, dirty coal, and energy alternatives, but no discussion of global warming. You will find chapters on cloth diapers, the decline of bees, noise and light pollution, electromagnetic fields, clear cutting, radon, and many more.

This is an excellent introduction to environmental studies. Students will want to follow the references to more detailed discussion of selected topics. An appendix lists many on line resources.
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