In honor of Earth Day today, Lake Saint Louis Patch asked Ward 3 Alderman John Pellerito to talk about his work to bring a demonstration area to Boulevard Park to showcase earth-friendly ways to deal with stormwater.
Lake Saint Louis Patch: First, could you give us some background? Education, career, family, how long you've lived in Lake Saint Louis?
John Pellerito: I retired from the US Postal service as an Operations Manager after 38 years of service. Before that, I served three tours in Vietnam and worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft for a short time. I graduated from St. Louis University in 1976 with a degree in Business (Bachelor of Science).
LSL Patch: What made you decide to get involved in city government?
Pellerito: This is my third term as an Alderman in Ward 3 — before I served on the Park Board. I got the bug to be in politics while working with some of the state representatives while working as an operations manager with USPS. My first elected position was as President of the Board of Trustees in Dardenne Prairie when that city was a village. I moved to Lake St. Louis in 1976.
LSL Patch: What first piqued your interest in the environment and environmental issues?
Pellerito: I have always been interested in the environment and that is another reason why I chose to become involved with the city — what better way to make a difference? I initiated discussions about rain gardens, biodetention areas and stormwater quality when I first assumed office and have continually tried to impress the importance of these areas to the the city staff and the other alderman.
LSL Patch: Where did you get the idea for the rain garden and biodetention area?
Pellerito: I have been to many seminars on the subject and try to keep up to date on new situations. So the rain garden idea is not new — it' just that we have some very progressive thinking people on city staff that are willing to look at new ways to solve our problems as a city.
LSL Patch: Is there a lot of support in the community for this demo area?
Pellerito: The biggest problem we have is stormwater control and funding. We are spending thousands of dollars every year repairing antiquated systems when the way to control this is to develop new techniques to reduce the flow while reducing the amount of pollutants running in our lakes. We have many public and private stormwater problems right now with the future bringing more costly repairs.
LSL Patch: What do you hope the demo area will achieve?
Pellerito: It is hoped that these demonstration areas will encourage our new and existing developers to build similar biodention areas to control the amount of runoff on thier developments. It is also hoped that private homeowners will be encouraged to build rain garden areas to fix their problem areas. These are both advantageous to the city in controlling our costs and homeowners who can fix their problems in an inexpensive manner. At the same time we are providing demonstration areas in Boulevard Park that provide an natural solution. Seventy percent of pollution in rivers, lakes, etc. is carried there by stormwater runoff (rooftops, driveways, mowed lawns, etc ). These impervious surfaces have taken the place of soil that readily absorbs rainwater. The result is an increase in stormwater volume and velocity, creating an increase in water pollution, stream-bank erosion and flooding. In a healthy watershed (rain gardens and biodetention areas) the roots of grasses, perennial plants, and shrubs and trees capture rainwater, aerate soil and help water percolate into the ground, reducing erosion and flooding.
Three primary audiences have been identified for this project: 1) The development community; 2) Residents interested in reducing their stormwater runoff or addressing a nuisance poor drainage situation on their property; and 3) Students at Green Tree elementary who will benefit from lectures presented by city staff and other partners about water quality and native habitat.
LSL Patch: How are the construction and maintenance of the area being funded?
Pellerito: The project is being funded by a grant from the Missouri Department of natural resources and matching funds from city staff. A contractor will be hired to do the heavy excavating. All plantings will be completed by staff and volunteers.
LSL Patch: What is the timeline for construction of the demo area?
Pellerito: The time line is in place for the project to be completed by September 2012. There has been one stakeholder meeting thus far and we are waiting for the design stage before more stakeholder meetings take place. Plantings will occur this fall and a contractor will be selected after the design is finalized. We are required to have quarterly reports submitted to DNR and there will be press releases thoroughout the schedule. Several organizations have volunteered to do the planting, but we will need as many as we can to get it all done. There will also be public education and outreach sessions and student educational field days .
LSL Patch: What other environmental issues would you like to see addressed in Lake Saint Louis?
Pellerito: We have been awarded a grant to provide additional recycling containers throughout our parks, marina areas, Lake Forest Country Club, and Community Association property. We are in the process of selecting the containers. We are partnering in this project with Christian Environmental. I am also researching how we can do a better job of conserving water. I am looking at a water reclamation system at City hall that will reduce the amount of water used by that facility. The environmental committee is publishing articles in Newstime that will encourage and educate our residents about keeping our city environmentally friendly.