December 23: Road contamination causes evacuation of Times Beach, MO., on this date in 1982

Alex Lloyd

On this date in 1982, Times Beach, MO., a town founded in 1925 as part of a promotion by the now defunct St. Louis Star-Times newspaper, told its residents that the town will be evacuated and then demolished due to a chemical called dioxin that was sprayed on its unpaved roads back in 1972. Located off Route 66, the once promised resort town fell shy of the newspaper's expectations, becoming a lower-middle class area with around 2,000 residents. The roads were unpaved due to a lack of cash, and that made the dust strewn by cars and trucks unbearable. The solution, town officials thought, was to spray the roads with oil to effectively glue the dust onto the ground. For this, they hired Russell Bliss, a local waste-hauler with an abundance of oil a chemical manufacturer named NEPACCO had paid him to get rid of the year before. Bliss covered the roads in oil from 1972 to 1976 at a cost of six cents per gallon.

The dust problem, the town thought, had been solved. Eventually, however, horses began dropping dead and people became sick. In 1979, the EPA took soil samples and found that a highly toxic chemical named dioxin was found in a concentration deemed 100 times higher than the known "dangerous" levels. The agency evacuated the town at a cost of $250 million, $36 million of which went towards purchasing the residents' homes (all but one homeowner sold). 260,000 tons of toxic soil was removed, leaving Times Beach a "ghost town" until 1999 when it was bulldozed and reopened as the Route 66 State Park.

Thousands of law suits were filled against Bliss, NEPACCO and its contractors. Bliss, however, was never convicted of a crime, as there were no laws in effect at the time that regulated the disposal of hazardous waste. Below is a video of the EPA taking samples at Denny Farm in Verona, MO., where NEPACCO had buried a further 85 barrels of toxic waste.

View Comments (1)

Recommended for You

  • 2015 Saleen Mustang S302 Black Label Arrives as a 750-hp Hellcat Killer

    Leave it to tuner Steve Saleen to put the Mustang head-to-head with the Dodge Challenger's supercharged kitty

  • DeltaWing unveils new GT race car, paves way for street version

    The DeltaWing has been one of the most innovative motorsports stories in years, proving that you don't need silly horsepower numbers to be fast. That car competes in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in the prototype class, as well as at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But this weird looking…

  • How to Win America's Longest, Toughest Endurance Race

    They call it the world’s toughest car endurance race for a reason. Despite a performance advantage over those chasing us, our transmission seemed sure to fail. We were just nine hours into this 25-hour marathon and already we were limited to running just fourth and fifth gear.

  • Living with the Mazda3 Long-Term Tester: Interior Quality and Quirks

    With many cars, even after a year of driving age starts to slowly take a toll. Having personally owned a 2007 MazdaSpeed 3 and a Honda Civic, I find the fit and finish of our long-term Mazda3 tester to be a huge leap forward.

  • The best small SUVs

    Small SUVs make up the fastest-growing vehicle segment on the market. It's no wonder: These right-sized crossovers promise an affordable combination of commanding ride height, spend-thrift fuel e...
  • Magnus Walker Talks About the History of the Porsche 911 Turbo

    The first Porsche 911 Turbo was launched forty years ago, in 1975. And although Porsche is often criticized for not doing enough to change the exterior of its cars through its history, much has changed within the realm that the 911 Turbo inhabits. Through that time, the 911 Turbo has gone through…

  • Previews from McLaren, Lexus, Cadillac set stage for New York auto show

    The 115th annual New York auto show starts next week, where we will see new cars from McLaren and Cadillac, not to mention a host of other exciting updates, from a hybrid Toyota Rav4 to a new Nissan Maxima.

  • Gordon Ramsay Added a LaFerrari to His Ferrari Collection

    Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s Ferrari collection isn’t just for show, he actually drives his cars around town. He was recently spotted in his newest purchase, a stunning LaFerrari, in Grigio Silverstone with a matte black roof. Rumored to be the owner of a 15 Ferraris, Ramsay was driving around…

  • 2015 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study Results

    Customers with run-flat tires are less satisfied with their tires and replace their tires more frequently in the first two years of ownership than customers with non-run-flat tires, according to the newly released J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study.SM

    J.D. Power and Associates
  • Is a New Lincoln Continental Debuting In New York?

    The Lincoln Continental once stood for American style and luxury, and it looks like it might be about to stage a comeback. There are indications that the Continental will be making a surprise return at the New York Auto Show next week. The leak comes from an in-progress website that has since been…

  • Infiniti's New Sport Muffler Uncorks The Q50's Exhaust Note

    While Nissan's GT-R makes regular appearances at supercar shootouts, the company's upmarket cousin Infiniti has been largely absent from the performance discussion. Because while the 560-horsepower Q50 Eau Rouge garnered plenty of praise upon its reveal at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, and was…

  • Updated 2016 Mazda6 remains fun, but limited

    Mazda’s midsized family sedan is refreshed for 2016, building upon its attractive styling, agile handling, and impressive fuel economy. But it is a car that goes up against tough, balanced compet...
  • Ride Like a Cop - The 2015 Urban Adventure LA From Aether Apparel and RawHyde Adventures

    Although I arrived on time, Aether Apparel was already packed with more BMW GS’s than I’d ever seen in one place. Each one was individualized, and every one had a differing shade of dirt worn like badges of honor. While the GS was the majority, there were
  • Extreme Turbo Systems Breaks GT-R 1/4-Mile World Record: Video

    Even in stock trim, Nissan's GT-R can deliver zero-to-60 times in the sub-three second range, putting it the territory of luminaries like the McLaren 4C, Ferrari 458, and Lamborghini Huracan.

  • ‘The Most Interesting Man in The World’ Cannot Save You From a Ticket

    No one looks forward to the morning commute. The entire process is long and frustrating. The HOV lane offers some small relief if you can find another person to carpool with, but make sure that the person is an actual person rather than a cardboard cutout. A particularly creative driver in…

  • Run-Flat Tires Letting Air Out of Customer Satisfaction

    Customers with run-flat tires are less satisfied with their tires, and replace their tires more frequently in the first two years of ownership, than customers with non-run-flat tires.

    J.D. Power and Associates
  • Farewell to Dane Westby

    Racers ride knowing the risks on the track, motorcyclists ride knowing the risks on the street. Earlier this week that risk took the life of AMA racer Dane Westby. He was involved in a motorcycle accident near his home in Tulsa,