With the advent of Haz-Mat, years of improper use and disposal of products created issues on a National Level, something had to be done to intervene, thus the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980.
December 1982 the EPA rolled into a sleepy little town just south of St. Louis and began soil sampling. Shortly after the sampling was completed a historic flood engulfed the town along the Meramec River resulting in evacuations. Just as the waters began to flow within their banks the news came from the EPA, the samples taken were contaminated resulting in the CDC recommending that the town not be re-inhabited.
In emergency services it seems as if every decade or so we have a new hot button or discipline we need train our staff for. Until the early 1970’s the majority of all EMS services outside of the hospital was done by undertakers. (I always thought there may be a conflict of interest there). The hot button in the 1970’s was EMS and that is where the trend for Fire Departments started in providing a higher level of care pre-hospital. Fast forward to the 1980’s and the new hot topic was Hazardous Materials, both in mitigation and cleanup. For decades accidents and waste sites were causing severe health and environmental problems and the Fire Service was again tasked to help in control and mitigation. But with the advent of Haz-Mat, years of improper use and disposal of products created issues on a national level, something had to be done to intervene, thus the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. Part of this act was to help fund the cleanup of contaminated sites, better known as Superfund.
The owner of a Pharmaceutical company from Verona, Missouri was in need of a way to more efficiently destroy toxic remains left after the production of a chemical used in soaps and toothpaste. The best way at the time was use of an incinerator; however this was not cost effective. A waste oil company was paid to dispose of nearly 18,500 gallons of this toxin. The owner, Russell Bliss, not knowing the dangers of the product proceeded to mix the waste with other crankcase oils.
What would this have to do with a small sleepy town just outside of St. Louis? This sleepy little town of 2,000 residents had no money to pave their streets so in an effort to keep the dirt and dust down in 1971 they hired an individual to spray the roads with what was believed to be used motor oil. The individual they hired was none other than Russell Bliss.
Times Beach, Missouri was this sleepy little town. In January of 1983 President Reagan created the Times Beach Dioxin Task Force and the relocation and purchase of this small town began. Soon this little town just outside of St. Louis would become one of the first Super Fund sites in the country. An incinerator was constructed on site and for many years burned the dioxin that had been used by Russell Bliss across Missouri. While in their areas the levels were toxic it has since come back that the levels found in Times Beach should not have been a concern. Route 66 State Park now stands where this one time town turned ghost town once stood.