Sunday, 2 February 2014

Some stupid idea wiped Times Beach, Missouri off the map

We discussed a month ago how Centralia (Pennsylvania) got wiped off the map by setting rubbish on fire in a landfill. Well it turns out history is filled with stupid ideas with dire consequences.

Dioxin contamination sign at the entrance of Times Beach
Times Beach (Missouri) was initially intended as a summer resort in 1925. You could buy a 20 x 100 ft (6 by 30 m) lot for $67.50 with a six-month newspaper subscription included. I suppose the town go its name from the St. Louis Times (who made the bundled offer with the subscription) and its location on the Meremec River bank.

The great depression and gasoline rationing of WWII transformed this resort of second residences into a mostly low/middle class town as it made driving there more expensive.


In the 70's the town had a problem with dust mostly caused by its unpaved roads... and had no funds to pave them. When money is short, lots of people get creative ; usually for the better but you end up sometimes with disasters. This is exactly what happened to Times Beach.

We're in 1972 ; we are not too concerned about the environment and spraying unpaved roads with motor oil to glue dust to the ground (probably) looks like the idea of the century. Hum...

The story would have probably been just a terrible idea if someone did not decide to add toxic waste loaded with dioxin to motor oil sprayed on the streets. This waste came from the company that was manufacturing Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

There are two sides to this story. Who's responsible? I will not point any finger... the official story says that Russel Bliss (the guy spraying the oil) was the one responsible. He claims he wasn't aware he was spraying anything else than motor oil and even sprayed his house with the same chemical (read his interview for his version) so who knows...

It wasn't until the 80's that people started to become concerned about horses, birds and other animals dying. When residents got their soil tested for PCB and Dioxin, Times Beach got flooded just before results came back positive for both. PCB was positive but apparently all right, and Dioxin, well...

Residents got a low price when they requested a buyout form President Regan. Those who refused to move and tried to stay in this -paved wirh cancer- town eventually got an even worse appraisal from the court when their properties went into condemnation. But that was of course... after the town got flooded a second time.

Someone's stupidity and greed got the best of Times Beach.

Epilogue: the town has now been bulldozed and reopened in 1999 as a Route 66 state park. People now question the need to evacuate Times Beach. The city of Seveso was got contaminated in 1976 with much higher concentrations of dioxin but its subsequent cleanup allowed the city to continue to exist.

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