The mayor of St. Joseph has been selected to serve on a national advisory committee that aims to create open lines of communication between the Environmental Protection Agency and local government leaders.

Mayor Bill McMurray is one of 12 new members of the Local Government Advisory Committee, which is made up of mayors, commissioners, state representatives and other local leaders from around the country.

McMurray interacted with the EPA last June when the agency came to St. Joseph to promote education of lead exposure in the local area.

“We have elevated lead levels in children that are tested here, and the EPA wanted to conduct an educational campaign in St. Joe, so I said, ‘I’ll be happy to get out in front of that and do whatever,’” McMurray said. “So we did that, and I got to meet a bunch of the people from Kansas City, and I must have impressed them or something, or else somebody threw a dart somewhere in Washington.”

McMurray said he is looking forward to the learning from other leaders from around the country, and sharing ideas to be more environmentally responsible on a local level.

“I was looking at the roster of the people who are involved in this, and they’re from all over the country, so I’m sure I can learn a lot from people in other places.”

The mayor said St. Joseph already has taken steps to be better stewards of the earth by working to fix the issue of raw sewage being dumped into the Missouri River. The $53 million Blacksnake Creek project was recently completed, creating a tunnel that should guide the Blacksnake Creek underground into the river to avoid overflow of sewers.

“As a local voice, I would say, ‘My gosh, when we when we put a multimillion-dollar mandate on a city, that’s an onerous burden, particularly one where the median income is not enormous,” McMurray said. “They’ve given us some very generous terms, and given us a lot of time. But wow, people’s sewer bills are increased, and that’s the reason- it was a mandate to clean that up. So there’s a perspective I can give.”

The city also recently revoked the permit of HPI Products for releasing wastewater into the city sewer system. Public Works Director Andy Clements told News-Press NOW on Feb. 14 that unauthorized chemicals were found in the sewer system that was traced back to the company.

The city pulled the wastewater contribution permit from the company, allowing work inside only to clean up and mandating that employees be supervised to prevent any production and further dumping.

McMurray said St. Joseph also has worked to use methane gas from the local landfill to create energy for Evergy.

“We’re doing a lot of that stuff, so I mean, I can tell people about that, and they can tell me what they’re doing,” McMurray said. “We can make St. Joe a better place. I think that’s the primary advantage of being on this committee.”

McMurray said he wants to continue finding ways to be more eco-friendly while keeping local businesses in mind.

“That’s the perspective I’ve always had: Let’s be pro-business, but let’s also take care of our environment,” McMurray said. “So there’s a happy medium there somewhere, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it as it’s practiced in other communities.”

Jessika Eidson can be reached

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