Cities Journal

Top 14 Dirtiest Cities In The US

14-st louis-flickr-digitizedchaos
Photo credit: digitizedchaos / Flickr

Some places in the United States feature clean, open skies with minimal pollution, fresh water, and well-manicured streets. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of living in pristine cities with minimal harm to life and limb.

Some cities have such poor cleanliness and health ratings that their quality of life and even lifespan become dragged down significantly below the national average. When it comes to making a decision about where to put down roots over the next few years, there are a few cities you should avoid like the plague: some of them may actually have the plague themselves.

1. St. Louis, MO

Go a few dozen miles or so upriver from St. Louis, and you’ll see that the Missouri River flows strong and clear due to the relative scarcity of large cities that have the chance to pollute it. Go a few dozen miles downstream of this large city, however, and you’ll see a river that’s choked with dirt, pollution, trash, and all matter of nasty hazards.

Such is the runoff from one of the dirtiest cities in the entire nation, a city that may have seen its best days come and go a hundred years ago. St. Louis today has an employment rate that the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs at over 8% and rising steadily. A poor economy has minimized the desire to clean up the city, while a strong inland port and major chemical manufacturing has maximized the impact on the environment, including a landfill that remains filled with radioactive uranium waste.

St. Louis lags well behind the national average in clean water, since the Mississippi River serves as a drainage bin for everything from toxic waste to household trash. That’s bad news for residents, but even worse for downstream cities like Memphis and New Orleans, who have to suffer the wrath of their northern neighbor’s cast-offs.

It’s not just the water that’s bad either, since the industrial centers of the city spew pollution into the skies twenty-four hours per day. St. Louis ranks a 24 in the Sperling Air Quality Index, meaning it’s not particularly wise to breath in the city air if you’ve got respiratory issues like asthma. Since it functions as a major inland port, furthermore, boats going up and down the river dump their waste and trash right on St. Louis’ doorstep.

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