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.

It was a different story a week earlier when the carcass of a similar-size doe caused a stir after being left to fester for 24 hours in St. Louis. In that case, a media feeding frenzy ensued when the dazed and confused animal crashed through a plate-glass door of an office building on Washington Avenue and bolted pell-mell through downtown, where it died after being hit by a car on Memorial Drive.

City beat cops duly removed the carcass, placing it adjacent to the sidewalk. The next day, police responded to a crime on the same block and discovered the dead deer had not been removed. Local media then pounced on the incident, mocking public officials who passed the buck for not disposing of the urban road kill in a timely manner. News accounts of the snafu ended with MODOT carting off the carcass and the story appeared to have died a more natural death than the doe.

Mainstream media, however, missed the guts of the story.

The MODOT site in Weldon Spring.

Andrew Gates,  a spokesman for MODOT, says the department spends approximately $1.1 million a year to remove and dispose of road kill found on state-maintained highways and roads. Dead animals collected in the St. Louis area are taken to the MODOT site in Weldon Spring, says Gates, where they are incinerated. “That is, as we understand, what happened to the deer that was recovered from downtown St. Louis this past weekend,” Gates adds.  The MODOT spokesman pegged the cost of burning an animal carcass at $55.

It remains unclear as to whether feeding the birds is part of the cost or if  the state agency may have saved taxpayers a few bucks on this occasion.

Turkey vultures only gather for one reason. In this instance, the object of their insatiable appetites lies fifty feet off Route 94, shielded from motorists’ view by concrete road barriers. The raptors gorge on the partially decomposed corpse of the small deer in the shadow of the of the Energy Department’s monumental  pile of nuke waste. As the birds of prey devour the rotting flesh, a dense, frantic swarm of flies buzzes around the putrefying mass on the asphalt. Two orange MODOT traffic cones mark the location of the deer’s final resting place.

If there is an incinerator on the premises, this grotesque spectacle does not betray its presence.

And the doe is as dead as yesterday’s news.

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2 responses

11 06 2012
Adam

Good content, I appreciate you trying to bring a little attention to some of the city’s problems. But why so aggressive? Your blog reads like AM talk radio.

12 06 2012
Journal of Decomposition

Thank you, Adam. The path of tax-payer money is a serious issue. We appreciate your critical thinking.

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