Route 66 News

Test results close chapter in Times Beach saga

The U.S. EPA announced that recent soil tests at Route 66 State Park near Eureka, Mo., showed remnants of dioxin are at a safe level for visitors and park rangers — effectively closing a chapter of the long and tragic saga of the now-extinct Route 66 town of Times Beach.

According to a news release from the agency Monday:

Dioxin soil sampling in June 2012, conducted at the request of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), which owns the park, confirms that park visitors and employees are not being exposed to significant health risks. The sampling was part of an EPA Region 7 study to apply newly developed science to test for very small, or trace, amounts of dioxin in soil at the park.

“This is good news for the thousands of people who visit Route 66 State Park each year, and good news for the state employees and others who earn their living there,” EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said. “It confirms that the work EPA and MDNR did in the 1990s to clean up this site continues to provide a safe recreational area for the public.” […]

EPA collected surface soils from a variety of representative locations, including trails, shelters, picnic areas, the playground, the proposed location for an off-leash dog park, underground utility line installation areas, former roadways and residential lots, and two outfalls near the Meramec River.

Detailed reports of the soil testing can be read here.

Times Beach was bought out by the federal government and evacuated in 1983 after dioxin contamination was found throughout the town. A contractor had spread dioxin-laced waste oil on the town’s streets to keep down dust, and a flood from the nearby Meramec River exacerbated the problem. Dioxin is a carcinogen and notoriously toxic.

After the evacuation, the government incinerated as much of the contaminated soil as possible. After that, the state opened Route 66 State Park at the site. The park’s office is at the old Steiny’s Inn restaurant, located off old Route 66, and contains memorabilia about the town and the Mother Road.

The old Route 66 bridge at the park remains closed because of its deteriorated state, but it’s hoped it can be repaired and reopened as a pedestrian span.

More about Times Beach can be read at the Legends of America website. Norma Maret Bolin also provided a lot of detail about the saga in her well-researched “Route 66 St. Louis” book.

2 thoughts on “Test results close chapter in Times Beach saga

  1. Sal Paradise

    ANother great source for Times Beach history, circa 1990’s and before, is Tom Teague’s book, ‘Searching for 66′. Teague went into detail on what had happened to the town, and where is was at the that time. A very objective, insightful look. Teague’s book stands out as, I think, the best of collective stories of the road. Yet, it is often ignored or given little exposure compared to the more business and commerce driven offerings. If your a 66′ buff, you really should read Teague’s book.

  2. Michael Bates

    I recall driving past in 1987, when there were still a handful of small houses within sight of I-44, with stenciled words (in red, if I recall correctly) warning people away. It was a chilling sight. I’m happy to know that the soil is safe again.

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