Coalition Report

Missouri Coalition for the Environment

MCE Green Onion Gala Set For Oct. 11

by Kathleen Logan Smith
Director of Environmental Policy Coalition For The Environment

Every fall, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) hosts an anniversary event at which we honor individuals and organizations that have made a positive difference for Missouri’s environment. In October, MCE will honor one individual and two groups with the 2013 Environmental Achievement Awards at our 44th anniversary celebration, the “Green Onion Gala” on October 11, 2013 in St. Louis. This year’s honorees will receive:

The Kay and Leo Drey Environmental Stewardship Award to Jean Ponzi, for over 25 years of environmental education in the greater St. Louis community. Jean Ponzi is a frequent Green spokesperson for local and national media and since 1997 has written a monthly column for The Healthy Planet Magazine. For over 24 years, she has produced and hosted the weekly environmental radio talk shows, “Earthworms,” on St. Louis independent radio FM-88.1 KDHX, and more recently has presented “Growing Green St. Louis” on AM-550 KTRS. As Green Resources Manager for the EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden, Jean coaches sustainable thinking and practice across the region’s business community, and in many general public settings. Jean’s expertise with energy efficiency, recycling and waste reduction, air quality,native plant landscaping, water conservation, Green building and other practical topics has deeply improved the St. Louis regional community and beyond.

The first 2013 R. Roger Pryor Citizen Activist Award to an effort known as “The Coldwater Creek-Just the Facts Please” group whose presence on Facebook has brought together individuals who research, organize, inform and mobilize action on the issue of radioactive waste contamination and related cancers in the Coldwater Creek area in St. Louis County. The grassroots leaders include: Jenell Rodden Wright, Kim Thone Visintine, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, all of whom are graduates of McCluer North High School and former residents of neighborhoods near Coldwater Creek, a creek that flows from Lambert Airport north through Hazelwood and Florissant to the Missouri River.

Radioactive nuclear weapons wastes were stored outside at Latty Ave. in Hazelwood in the floodplain of Coldwater Creek from the late 1960’s through 1973. Trucks carrying the wastes contaminated streets and yards with the material that contains long-lived Thorium-230 and other hazardous radionuclides. Latty Ave., Coldwater Creek, Lambert Airport and the haul routes are being cleaned up under a federal program called the Formerly Utilized Site Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) that decontaminates such nuclear weapons related contamination. People who grew up along Coldwater Creek and the haul routes before the federal clean up began appear to be suffering the excessive cancers and other health effects of ionizing radiation. The work to get medical help for victims of the contamination is ongoing.

A second 2013 R. Roger Pryor Citizen Activist Award to “The West Lake Landfill Group” and the group’s Facebook page administrators, who leverage social media and community organizing to protect and inform citizens about Cold War-era radioactive wastes at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri, where a subsurface landfill fire is burning 1,000 feet from radioactive nuclear weapons wastes. The grassroots leaders of this effort are: Dawn Chapman, Beth Strohmeyer, and Karen Nickel. The thousands of tons of wastes at West Lake landfill were moved from Latty Ave. and dumped in the West Lake Landfill, a former quarry on St. Charles Rock Road near Earth City.

From its beginnings in October 2012, the West Lake Landfill Group has grown to more than 2,500 people. It has mobilized community meetings attracting as many as 650 people, and won increased air monitoring, increased information disclosure, and increased consideration of public health from the Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources and the Dept. of Health & Senior Services. The effort has garnered more than 2,000 signatures on petitions, and engaged dozens of citizen volunteers who have knocked on neighbors’ doors, researched stacks of documents, and made innumerable phone calls to agency and elected officials.

The 2013 award honorees have distinguished themselves by informing, empowering, educating and mobilizing others about critically important environmental issues. The Green Onion Gala features local food and flavors from Something Elegant Catering, the music of Tommy Halloran’s Guerilla Swing, a silent auction, & awards presented by Ray Hartmann. Beverages provided by Urban Chestnut Brewing Company and Mad Buffalo Distillery. Sponsors include Circle B Ranch, Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, Microgrid Solar, The Healthy Planet magazine, Straight Up Solar, USagain, StLouisGreen.com, and MPR Supply Company.

The Gala will be held October 11, 2013 at Alberici Construction’s LEED Platinum Headquarters at 8800 Page Ave. in St. Louis from 6:30 pm Tickets are available by calling 314.727.0600 or visiting MCE’s website at www.moenviron.org.

We hope to see you there!