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Op-Ed: Real estate and SB22

By Maryann Manion

A good real estate market in St. Louis is always welcome.

This is true even in Spanish Village, where the “Just Moms” group has declared homes there unfit for living based upon private testing.

Since May 2016 there have been 63 residences sold within 2 miles of Spanish Village. Not all of these buyers were concerned about the landfill. They loved the neighborhoods. Green trees, lots of grass, beautiful homes. A hilly landscape in Spanish Village. Great access to Highways 70 and 270.

The landfill has been in the news ever since Democrats made it a political issue. My own Senator Chappelle-Nadal jumped in.

What a hornet’s nest Chappelle-Nadal has created. As a constituent, I am worn out by her scare tactics.

My understanding is the EPA, CDC, and DHSS have all found the Landfill is safe. They decide what levels are safe. Not me, not a Senator, nor residents or private testing companies.

With the market as it has been – owners could have listed their homes with opportunities to take control of their own lives, not live paralyzed with fear and immobilized from action. Realtors and owners could bring up the landfill if they chose to, or not.

Now, Senator Chapelle-Nadal believes our State should use limited tax dollars to buy people out of their homes. Missouri has 40 sites that are contaminated.

Missouri will become its own Superfund. And we, the taxpayer, will be picking up the tab unless this is well thought out and planned properly. There is no guarantee the EPA will reimburse us – even if the Attorney General sues them. Guess who pays for that?

Chappelle-Nadal’s Senate Bill 22 was poorly written with no long-range solution. And the promises she intimated would be passed by the Legislature and Senate aren’t necessarily coming to fruition. And then to threaten a Senate filibuster so nothing else can be done this week. What a show.

Add “Just Mom’s” to the fuel the situation. Two years ago they held a press conference and declared the Bridgeton Municipal Athletic Complex was unsafe and harmful to the community. The declaration caused a huge financial impact, forcing a large tournament to be shut down, families to change their plans, and local business to lose money.

The news did not focus on the fact that only a few months later, EPA demonstrated the claims about the Athletic Complex were totally unfounded and the site is, and was, in fact, safe.

“Just Moms” went after the landfill. Imminent danger, fires, radioactive fallout, emergency evacuation and shelter in place plans for schools. Letters sent home with the children caused mass hysteria. Remember, 63 residences were purchased during the last two years within 2 miles of Spanish Village.

Once again, the community was soon reassured from the EPA, CDC, and the Landfill operator that the Landfill was safe.

“Just Moms” and the “Earth Defense Coalition” have strategized together. About a month ago “Earth Defense Coalition” protesters blocked two of the entrances to the Westlake Landfill shutting down operations and endangering individuals working at the site. Chained to barrels of concrete and rebar – are they collecting welfare checks. If not, who is paying them to protest. They certainly aren’t homeowners in the local area. They have to sleep and eat somehow.

Unquestionably, the trespassers with prompting from “Just Moms” and “Earth Defense Coalition” unnecessarily distracted law enforcement from more legitimate public safety needs and impeded normal business operations in Bridgeton.

It seems to me that neither the protestors nor the “Just Moms” nor the ‘Earth Defense Coalition” truly understand science, EPA standards or how to civilly communicate. Additionally, they caused Republic who “acquired” the landfill as part of a larger purchase, to have to file a restraining order against 10 protesters charged – from engaging in further trespass. Republic is doing all they can do to remedy the situation on site which they inherited.

Even worse, up until now, these homeowners had a choice regarding disclosure of contamination.

Now Chappelle-Nadal has made it mandatory in SB 22 for disclosure by a homeowner. “Radioactive Material Disclosure … Any seller or renter of a premises that was contaminated with radioactive material, who knows that such premises was contaminated with radioactive material, is required to disclose such radioactive contamination to any buyer or lessee in writing…”

As someone proud to call St. Louis home, I am worn out by the political antics that have created havoc in my community. These people need help. However, there is a process. If the EPA felt that there should have been a buyout and danger existed based upon their standards -action would have been taken many, many years ago. Politics got involved. And here we are.

Let’s formulate a long term plan for the State of Missouri for all 40 sites. Once buyouts begin based on SB 22 more and more people will be asking for money. It will come up in every session for years to come. No one has even addressed the issue of those people who don’t want to move. There are some. Should we force them. And what will we do with these homes. Cover with more dirt to make a park?

There are too many unaddressed issues to pass SB 22 as is.

We don’t need paid protesters.

“Just Moms” and homeowners are frozen in place and immobilized by fear created by politicians who they keep electing and who promise them the world.

“Earth Defense Coalition” needs to stop handcuffing themselves to cement containers which don’t help the situation at all.

On behalf of the community I love, I hope people will wake up and see what is really going on. I’m tired of folks yelling “fire”. Let’s help but let’s do it right with forethought.

This site is being cleaned step-by-step. And what I do know is this aggressive posturing isn’t helping anyone. Let the process work.

Manion is  from St. Louis County and resident of Senate District 14.