The Toxic Town Where The Cardinals Taxi Squad Will Practice
When I read that the Cardinals would be using GCS Credit Union Ballpark, home of the Gateway Grizzlies, in Sauget, Illinois as their alternate site I wanted to learn a little more about Sauget. Was it a quaint small Mississippi river town? A place where you might take the family for a weekend? Probably not.
If you're familiar with Sauget, the Sauget family, or the Illinois side of the Mississippi River you're laughing at me right now.
Sauget is one of a cluster of little towns on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River across from St. Louis that, according to an article in BELT Magazine, has been troubled since the deindustrialization of the 60's along with white flight and highway bypass systems.
Yet the story of Sauget is different than that of its neighbors, East Saint Louis or Cahokia. You see Sauget, whose original name was Monsanto when it was incorporated in 1926. Was incorporated because local governments had most of the responsibility for setting environmental rules back then.
So the best way for companies to not be burdened with environmental regulations and unfavorable taxes was to incorporate their own town and put their factories there. Which is exactly what Monsanto did according to both BELT Magazine and Wikipedia.
According to the BELT article mayor Richard A. Sauget Jr. admitted to the Wall Street Journal that Sauget was created to be a dumping ground. “We were basically incorporated to be a sewer."
And a Washington University in St. Louis Center for the Humanities historical analysis of Industrial Pollution in Sauget, Illinois calls the town "ground zero for the production of ninety-nine percent of the PCBs used for industrial purposes in the United States from the 1930s through the 1970s." And also contains a laundry list of other companies that polluted the environment with dioxins, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds.
The BELT article paints Sauget as a toxic town that hasn't changed much since it's beginnings. "Companies have been passing through Sauget, taking advantage of its almost nonexistent zoning and regulatory oversight, for the greater part of the twentieth century. The physical traces left by this environmental devastation have become as recognizable parts of Sauget’s identity as its small regional airport or cluster of windowless strip clubs."
In 2016 St. Louis Magazine featured a portrait of the town's namesake family which has run the town since it's incorporation in 1926. The Washington University analysis paints the family in the following light:
"Ruling from their infamous mansion on the hill, the Sauget family continues to unabashedly attract an ever-increasing variety of enterprises. Such an extensive entanglement and open pursuit of lucrative operations is undoubtedly an abuse of power. More than simple corruption, the Sauget family and the companies which have operated out of the Village are liable for decades of industrial pollution."
The picture's caption says it all a little more succinctly "The royal family of wee Sauget, Ill., 4.59 square miles that are tolerant of strip clubs and industrial chemicals, boosters of baseball, influential in healthcare and film and philanthropy."