Times Beach, Missouri: Toxic Town


By Michael J. Lynch, University of South Florida, FL


Times Beach, Missouri is an example of a toxic town (see toxic town entry in this dictionary) and is now a toxic ghost town due to the level of pollution found there. The site has recently been reopened as a state park.

Times Beach was originally founded as a summer resort area a short distance from St. Louis. Over time, however, its residence shifted to lower-middle income. The roads in the town were primarily dirt, and the town faced significant dust problems due to the fact that most roads were unpaved. In the early 1970s, the town hired Russell Bliss to oil the road to reduce the dust problem. Bliss also had a contract with another waste disposal firm to dispose of used oil. The used oil, however, was contaminated with dioxin, and thus Bliss was spraying Times Beach roads with used oil contaminated with this highly toxic substance.

The initial investigations of problems in the Times Beach area emerged following Bliss’ application of the contaminated oil around horse stables, which lead to the death of a number of horses. The Center for Disease Control investigated the problem and found that Bliss has been spraying dioxin contaminated oil around the stables. The EPA followed up with further investigations of Times Beach in 1982. Test results showed soil contamination 100 times health safety bench marks. Following the creation of a dioxin task force under the Reagan Administration, the EPA moved to remedy the problem by offering Times Beach residents a buyout. Several law suits were filed by resident against Bliss and other waste haulers and the owners of the site from which the contaminated waste was originally hauled. Bliss was never convicted of any dioxin related crimes, though he served 1 year in jail on tax fraud.

In 1985, the town was evacuated. The town was latter bull-dozed (1992) and 265,000 tons of contaminated soil was removed from the location as part of the remediation.

Further Reading

In this dictionary see:”Toxic Towns” entry


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