Forbes Names St. Louis #20 Dirtiest City in America

Dec 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm
The Mississippi River in all its muddy, polluted glory.
The Mississippi River in all its muddy, polluted glory.

St. Louis earned a place on a Forbes magazine list alongside the likes of New York City and Los Angeles.

Unfortunately that list was of the dirtiest cities in America, as determined by air and water quality.

Christopher Helman, of Fortune, writes that St. Louis deserves the #20 spot because:

The confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri is the third-largest inland port and home to more than 150 industrial sites. In 2010 more than 20 million lbs of toxic materials were disposed of on land, with 5 million lbs emitted into the air. In the 1970s millions of cubic yards of uranium-contaminated soil was deposited at the West Lake landfill -- which remains polluted with radiation. Sperling Air Quality Index: 24 Sperling Water Quality Index: 44

We wrote about the Westlake Landfill site last month and indeed it seems like some nasty business.

Helman cites author Bert Sperling's website as his source for the data used for this inauspicious top 20 list. Sperling's air quality index is based on annual data from the Environmental Protection Agency, which factors in ozone and pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead and volatile organic chemicals. His water quality rankings use EPA data that include indicators like pollutants, sediments, and toxic releases.

Over a century ago, Hannibal-native Samuel Clemons aka "Mark Twain" described the water in St. Louis like this:

If you will let your glass stand half an hour, you can separate the land from the water as easy as Genesis. ... The land is very nourishing, the water is thoroughly wholesome.

However, our tap water has grown more reputable with time. After a series of blind taste tests in 2007 and 2009, the US Conference of Mayors announced that St. Louis had the best tasting tap water.

Related: --Watchdog Group Has Its Eye On Veolia, City's New Water Division Consultant

Earlier this year the American Lung Association ranked St. Louis as the tenth most-polluted city out of 277 major metropolitan areas they measured for their annual "State of the Air" report.

Still 20 worst this time around ain't bad. Last year, in a similarly questionable list, Forbes gave us the eighth worst spot. We are movin' on down, baby.