Times Beach, Missouri
Times Beach was founded in 1925 on the flood plain of the Meramec River. The town was dis-incorporated by executive order of Missouri governor John Ashcroft in 1985. In 2001, the EPA removed Times Beach from its Superfund list. The story of Times Beach was featured on History Channel’s Modern Marvels.
About Times Beach, Missouri in brief
Times Beach was founded in 1925 on the flood plain of the Meramec River in a promotion by the now-defunct St. Louis Star-Times newspaper. In its early years, the town was primarily a summer resort, but the Great Depression combined with gasoline rationing during World War II reduced the feasibility of summer homes. From 1970 to 1972, NEPACCO was primarily involved in the production of hexachlorophene, an antibacterial agent used in soap, toothpaste, and common household disinfectants. The story of Times Beach was featured on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, in the episode \”Engineering Disasters 20\”. The town was dis-incorporated by executive order of Missouri governor John Ashcroft in 1985. In 2001, the EPA removed Times Beach from its Superfund list. The site now houses a 419-acre state park commemorating U.S. Route 66, the famous highway that stretched from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, and passed by the community. The town experienced a devastating flood in December, 1982. It happened just as the Environmental Protection Agency was confirming that dioxin contaminated the soil, leading to the town’s evacuation by 1985 and complete demolition by 1992. In the years immediately before its evacuation, Times Beach had become a lower-middle-class town. Historically, there had always been a small grocery store and gas station on Route 66 to serve the residents. This facility was owned by Hoffman-Taff, a company that produced the Agent Orange herbicide for use during the Vietnam War.
The result of this purification process led to the storage and accumulation of thick, oily residues, in a storage tank located near the facility in Verona. In 1971, the still bottoms were sent to a waste facility in Louisiana for incineration. Although incineration was the best method to destroy dioxins at the time, it was also very expensive. IPC knew very little about waste disposal and subcontracted the job to Russell Martin Bliss, the owner of the Independent Petrochemical Corporation. Subsequently, some of the contaminated oil was sold to a fuel company, MT Richards, where the contaminated motor oils were used in motor oils. The company paid USD 3000 per load, and IPC took most of the bottoms to his storage facility near Frontenac, Missouri, where they were disposed of in a tank containing motor oil used in a fuel tank. In October 1971, Bliss collected six truckloads of heavily heavily contaminated chemical waste with diox in it. This was the largest civilian exposure to this compound in the history of the United States. It was the same company that made Agent Orange. By the time NEPacCO ceased its operations in 1972, Hoffman-taff had been taken over by Syntex Agribusiness. The company sold the contaminated waste oil to a small and local business, Charging Oil, where it was mixed into motor oils and used in fuel tanks.