The Suburban Anti-Paradise

The Wall Street Journal had a great report on the front page yesterday about the town of Sauget, Illinois–a suburb just across the river from St. Louis.

As small communities struggle to attract economic development in a competitive environment, Sauget seems to have carved out a unique niche:  attract various unattractive industries.

Sauget was initially developed in 1926 as an industrial site to house operations–and employees–for the Monsanto chemical company.  In the pre-EPA era, Monsanto sited extremely hazardous operations in Sauget where they produced PCBs for many years.

With the banning of PCBs, the city diversified and attracted a whole host of other polluting industries making it one of the most polluted places in Illinois.

Unlike other cities in the state who are trying to transform their economies from an industrial focus to being more sustainable, Sauget is sticking to its tried and true plan.  In addition to being hospitible to normally-shunned businesses like strip clubs, Sauget is also being helped by the state to continue to attract other polluting industries–as evidenced by the recent announcement by Gov. Blagojevich to give more than $2 million to a British Zinc processing company to purchase and expand a pre-existing plant.

Sauget certainly has the right to attract any business it sees fit–however, the polluting nature of many of these businesses have historically had effects on regional ecological processes.  Because of the autonomy of municipal governments like Sauget, however, there is often little that can be done by neighboring communities to resist regional polluters.