Double Trouble

25 06 2012

When it comes to turning trees into mulch Patrick Geraty finds two companies are better than one

by Bill Newmann

Agricycle, Inc., a company with close ties to the holder of a lucrative city composting contract, is responsible for cutting down a large swath of St. Louis County’s dwindling woodlands in recent years, the Journal of Decomposition has learned.

Patrick T. Geraty of Kirkwood owns both Agricycle and St. Louis Composting, Inc., which took over the St. Louis Forestry Division’s municipal composting operation in 2009.  Though incorporated separately, the two companies are in essence branches of the same operation.

St. Louis Composting and Agricycle’s joint site in Valley Park

St. Louis Composting, which has the higher profile of the pair, rakes in an estimated $12 million annually, according to the St. Louis Business Journal, processing more than 500 million cubic yards of municipal organic waste, including St. Louis city street trees.  Meanwhile out in the burbs, Agricycle, the quieter sister company, gains its lucre by clear cutting more than 500 acres yearly for developers, according to an industry source.

Geraty founded St. Louis Composting in 1992, the same year that a new Missouri law banned yard waste from landfills.  Contrary to its name, however, the company was incorporated in Illinois, and originally included a trio of corporate directors from the Chicago area.  Three years later, Geraty incorporated Agricycle in Missouri.  Both companies share the same address: 39 Old Elam Avenue, which is next to a landfill in Valley Park, a suburban town in southwest St. Louis County.  Most of the companies’ other sites are located on or near former landfills.

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The Sunny Side of the Street

18 06 2012

The alleged Center of the Universe

A walk down Chippewa sheds light on St. Louis Forestry’s policies and practices

by Will Delaney

The Donut Drive-In, at Watson and Chippewa, is a Route 66 landmark and the alleged Center of the Universe. To be accurate, the Center of the Universe is thought by some to be inside the hole of one of the millions of glazed donuts that the shop has deep-fried here since 1954. But there is a lack of consensus among quantum physicists as to which hole that might be. The continuing enigma is an inexplicable leftover of the Cold War, steeped in hot grease and shrouded in secrecy.

Theorists postulate that the portal into the void may have passed decades ago, running its course through the digestive tract of an unsuspecting southsider, or it could very well be in the next batch of glazed delicacies to come out of the fryer. To be on the safe side, I ordered a couple of custard-filled pastries instead. They don’t have holes. I am normally less cautious, but recent events, which I attribute to the approaching summer solstice, have raised my guard. Under current karmic conditions, it was too early in the day to risk being swept into the vortex of a freaky donut hole that defies scientific explanation.

I ate breakfast in the asphalt parking lot, leaning against the west-facing wall of the concrete-block building, a location chosen not for its scenic view of the nearby car wash, but spurred  by extreme solar conditions, which by 10 a.m. were already turning city streets into a blast furnace.

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Something Rotten in Weldon Spring

11 06 2012

A dead doe at MODOT’s Weldon Spring site.

MODOT spends more than a million bucks annually to dispose of road kill but can’t seem to get rid of one doe.

 By Bill Newmann

As the last rays of sunlight peek over the towering radioactive waste dump in Weldon Spring, Mo., a wake of turkey vultures congregate at the nearby highway maintenance yard, where the inescapable stench of death hangs thick in the still air.

It’s dinnertime in the boondocks, and the winged scavengers are feasting on carrion courtesy of the Missouri Department of Transportation. The raptors roost, circle and descend on their prey, but harried motorists driving down Route 94 on Friday evening don’t bother to slow down and gawk.

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The St. Louis Chainsaw Massacre

7 06 2012

When a tree falls in the city does anyone hear the cash register ring?

By Bill Newmann

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”Henry David Thoreau

An example of the St. Louis Forestry Division’s handiwork.

The hit jobs are carried out with military-like precision in broad daylight on city streets almost every day.  As a result, thousands of St. Louis’ oldest residents have disappeared over time, targeted for disposal without warning.  Moreover, the hatchet men in these coordinated attacks operate with immunity under a blanket law that provides authority to act with no public input.

The victims are mature hardwood trees that line city streets.  The perp is the Forestry Division of the St. Louis Parks Department. The city’s urban foresters adhere to a model shared nationally by the commercial timber industry, a world in which trees are planted, grown, and harvested in a perpetual cycle.  The strips of publicly owned land between sidewalks and curbs are akin to a plantation, and the trees, an agricultural commodity.  Removing the mature tree canopy that shields the city is an unavoidable part of this municipal agribusiness.  Adding insult to injury, a private company profits from this taxpayer-subsidized scheme.

Street trees have become a cash crop.

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Crapper’s Legacy

5 06 2012

WPA laborers completed the River Des Peres project during the Great Depression.

MSD belatedly cleans up its act and dumps the cost on ratepayers

The River Des Peres near Chippewa Avenue.

By Will Delaney

The current dilemma faced by St. Louisans can be traced back to Thomas Crapper, the English plumber who popularized the flush toilet in the late 19th Century.

Crapper, of course, could never have predicted the environmental or economic consequences that indoor plumbing would have on modern society, but voters here certainly will have to grapple with the issue when they go to the polls today to consider passage of the $945 million Metropolitan Sewer District bond issue.

If passed, the bonds will finance the first four years of a $4.7 billion, 23-year project that will radically reduce the amount of raw sewage that pours into the Mississippi River.

The next time property taxpayers relieve themselves they may wish to contemplate the fecal history that led to this exorbitantly expensive proposition. The core of this sordid tale is a dirty little secret that involves MSD’s non-compliance with the federal Clean Water Act since the inception of the law in 1972.  To be fair, however, MSD inherited the mess. By the time the district was founded in 1954, some city sewers were already a century old, while burgeoning suburban St. Louis County had more than 500 unregulated sewage systems.

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