environmental restoration

EPA Makes a Visible Difference in St. Louis Community: Transforming Pruitt Igoe’s Legacy into Source of Hope

By David Doyle

Since early 2014, I’ve been the point person for EPA’s involvement in the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative (SC2) in St. Louis. SC2 is a presidential initiative that brings federal agencies together as a team to address economic issues in communities that have undergone economic upheaval, and the social and environmental upheaval that accompanies it.

The effort in St. Louis is led by EPA. We have a staff person at City Hall who works very closely with the mayor’s staff on identifying issues important to local stakeholders.

On one of our first visits, the city planning director and two of the mayor’s top aides gave us a tour of St. Louis. One of the aides, Eddie Roth, carried along a poster board with a city map taped to it with a bullseye drawn around a site on the city’s north side. He identified it as the former Pruitt Igoe housing complex.

History of Pruitt Igoe

Demolition of Pruitt Igoe in 1976

Demolition of Pruitt Igoe in 1976

I’d heard a little bit about Pruitt Igoe, which I knew was a failed public housing complex, and I remembered seeing pictures of it being demolished, but little more. As Eddie explained, and I learned through additional research, it opened in 1954 and was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect who later designed the World Trade Center in New York City. The tenants who moved from slum housing to the new complex initially considered it to be a vast improvement.

Within a couple years, however, flaws in the modernist design, coupled with underfunded maintenance by the city housing authorities, left the complex uninhabitable. It became a scene of crime and other social unrest until it was eventually vacated and demolished in 1976.

Used as a demolition landfill in the 1990s, the former Pruitt Igoe site is still laden with the foundation and other remnants of the complex. It remains to this day as a constant reminder to city residents of a failed experiment in providing safe, affordable housing to underserved citizens.

Focusing SC2 Efforts

Eddie’s pitch to us during the tour was that the focus of our SC2 efforts should be on this site. As the largest undeveloped contiguous piece of property in St. Louis, and also well located near downtown, major transportation corridors and civic assets, the rehabilitation of this property in his mind would have a major impact on the city, not only physically but also psychologically.

I decided to spend some time looking more closely into how the 35-acre site could be reused.

Several environmental assessments had been conducted on the site over the years, which indicated some environmental issues existed on the property from pre-Pruitt Igoe uses, but these issues weren’t a major problem. The city drafted a risk assessment but never completed it.

Working with city and state staff, EPA completed the risk assessment and an accompanying soil management plan that we submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and led to a “no further action” determination being officially issued. This determination meant that no further environmental remediation is necessary at the site, as long as it is used for non-residential purposes. Such a determination allows private developers to reassess the financial risk associated with investing in the redevelopment of such properties.

Looking Forward

Current debris-laden site of former housing complex

Current debris-laden site of former housing complex

EPA is currently gearing up to develop plans for addressing the large amounts of demolition debris piled on the site, along with the foundation and other remnants of the former housing complex.

Hopefully, by the time EPA’s efforts at the site end sometime in 2017, we’ll be able to leave the city a plan they can use to move forward, and change the perception of this property from one of hopelessness to one of hopefulness.

About the Author: David Doyle serves as the Sustainable Communities Coordinator at EPA Region 7. David has a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering from Syracuse University, and a Master of Science in environmental health engineering from the University of Kansas.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Why I Love Wetlands

by Carol Petrow

Forested wetland Photo credit: Carol Petrow, EPA

Forested wetland
Photo credit: Carol Petrow, EPA

May is American Wetlands Month which makes it a perfect time to talk about a passion of mine. Wetlands are the vital link between land and water.  What is not to love about them?

EPA proclaims that “Wetlands are natural wonderlands of great value.”  My sentiments exactly! They provide important benefits to people and the environment by regulating water levels within watersheds, reducing flood and storm damage, improving water quality, providing important fish and wildlife habitat, and supporting educational and recreational activities.

To protect and restore our nation’s wetlands, EPA partners with other federal, state, local and tribal governments using regulatory authority as well as non-regulatory approaches, such as developing voluntary restoration and protection programs for wetlands.

With a membership consisting of federal and state regulatory personnel and scientists, the Mid-Atlantic Wetland Workgroup provides a forum for exchanging ideas, information, and strategies to facilitate the development and implementation of state wetlands monitoring and assessment programs that support restoration and protection.  At EPA, we’ve found over the years that, effective approaches to wetland protection engage individuals and communities.  Volunteer monitoring programs empower citizens to become more active stewards of wetlands in their communities.

Tidal marsh wetlands Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Tidal marsh wetland
Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Like people, wetlands come in all different types and sizes.  Some are wet all the time, while others sometimes appear dry.  Some have trees and shrubs, some only grasses or mud.  They can be large or small.  Nearly every county and climatic zone in the country has wetlands – so there are lots of wetlands to love, and you are never far from one of these natural wonderlands. To find a wetland near you, consult your local parks department, state natural resource agency or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

During May and throughout the year, Learn! Explore! And Take Action to learn about and protect our wetland gems.

 

About the author: Carol Petrow is the Acting Team Leader of the Wetlands Science Team in the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division, Office of Monitoring and Assessment.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Picking a Winner

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Mike Gill

I almost said no when I was asked to be a judge at the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). What a mistake that would have been!

I work in EPA’s Region 9 office in San Francisco. I was joined at ISEF by colleagues Ned Black, also from San Francisco, and Melissa Anley-Mills from Washington, DC.

Our goal was to find the project that best promoted environmental restoration, preservation and sustainability to receive the EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award. We had the opportunity to review many worthy projects and hopefully encourage the kids to pursue a lifetime of scientific curiosity and even study environmental science and engineering. And what talent they have!

It was tough knowing that out of all the brilliant kids, we could only pick one winner. 299 out of the total 1500 projects fell under our categories of interest, which included environmental management and environmental sciences. From these, we narrowed it down to 59 posters to review on Day 1 (sans kids) and then 10 “semi-finalists,” who we interviewed on Day 2.

Two things that met the goal of sustainability for us were using “re-purposed” materials (leftovers), and when it was clear that the students considered the complete life cycle of their project. It was important that projects try to avoid any unintended consequences. In addition, the simpler a project was, the more elegant it tended to be—such as a device built using a discarded laundry basket and duct tape to harness wind power in the developing world.

The winner? We selected Param Jaggi from Plano, Texas for his project Algae-Mobile 3: Bioactive Energy and Carbon Dioxide Filtration in the Exhaust of a Car. His work may one day improve air quality by reducing contaminants from automobile exhaust and improve the health of anyone impacted by automobiles. We also selected two impressive runners up: a project from Ireland that used beach strangling lettuce seaweed as heating fuel briquettes, and a project that harnessed wave, wind and solar power to create electricity.

This 2011 Intel ISEF was a great experience and certainly restored any lost faith I had on today’s kids and their ability to excel at science, technology, engineering and math. And I’m proud that EPA is playing a part in recognizing them!

About the Author: Mike Gill works in the EPA Region 9 office as a liaison between the staff working on Superfund hazardous waste cleanups and researchers in our EPA labs nationwide.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.