Sauget—Area 1 & Area 2
Sauget, an especially complex site, has generated piles of fun since 1926, when a few far-seeing businessmen incorporated the tiny Village of Monsanto (yes, that Monsanto!)— pop. 230, across from St. Louis on the Mississippi River—and extended an Absolutely In My Backyard welcome to mega-toxic industries that don’t enjoy paying taxes or being subject to, well, any regulations at all. Right from the start, it’s been a “family values” sort of town—as Leo Sauget (whose father played golf with Monsanto’s founder) and Leo’s son were the first 2 mayors, and the current mayor is Leo’s great-grandson. Meantime, the quaint Village—renamed Sauget in 1969—has graciously hosted Monsanto, Cerro Copper, Amex Zinc, Clayton Chemical, and dozens more mega-toxic-fun operations, as well as just one of 3 hazardous-wastewater treatment plants in the entire United States. While the Monsanto plant alone once manufactured 99% of American-made PCBs (banned, sadly, in 1977), the companies in the Village banded together to generate millions of tons of PCBs, DDT, dioxin, arsenic, and a party mix of 35 additional toxics. And they had fun dumping all the waste, legally and (more fun!) illegally, into landfills, pits, lagoons, the Mississippi River, and the 3½--mile-long (we kid you not) Dead Creek—all while generously exposing workers, without discriminating by color or creed, to high levels of everything.
And how cool is this?: Dead Creek now combusts spontaneously and glows in the dark.
In the early 1980s, the EPA finally arrived on the scene—cue Edvard Munch’s “Scream”—and embarked forthwith on their usual urgent process, to identify 14 major WTF hotspot sites and to design a cool multi-colored site map with lots of numbers and letters. By 1999, they had decided, basically, to excavate in the sky-blue Sauget 1 zone that included Dead Creek, and to cap and contain in the hot-pink Sauget 2 zone. Lawsuits galore!—as the EPA, industrial titans, and local citizenry all began to play an especially Marx-Brothers-style game of “Who’s Responsible,” in which they’re still trying to figure out which company dumped what where and merged and spun off and got renamed and got acquired and got renamed again and closed up and reorganized and went bankrupt and no longer exists.
Today, the Village of Sauget continues to extend its small-town “more toxics, more fun” welcome—and offers its now 141 lucky residents free sewer and garbage service. The Sauget family has lured in a Frontier League baseball team, while the clean-ups and lawsuits and remediation of the clean-ups continue to generate gobs of capital fun—even while St. Louisans who live across the river tend to enjoy Sauget more for the all-night bars, multiple strip clubs, and 2 recreational pot dispensaries.