This Town in Missouri Was Abandoned because It Became Contaminated with Dioxin

Diana Rus

Times Beach is an abandoned town located in St. Louis County, Missouri, 2 miles east of Eureka and 17 miles southwest of St. Louis.

The town, which formerly housed more than 2000 people, was completely evacuated at the beginning of 1983 because of contamination caused by TCDD, better known as dioxin. It was the biggest exposure of a civilian to the compound in US history.

Times Beach was formally de-incorporated by the State of Missouri in 1985.

A 419-acre state park honors the history of the Times Beach area as well as U.S. Route 66, the well-known route that ran from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, and passed by the community on its southern end. The park opened in 1999.
The former roadhouse, now the Route 66 State Park Visitor Center in January 2017Photo byTimes Beach, Missouri/Wikipedia

About Times Beach

Times Beach was founded in 1925 as a result of a campaign by the now-defunct St. Louis Star-Times newspaper in the Meramec River flood plain, southwest of the river. For $67.50, a 20 x 100-foot property was purchased together with a six-month newspaper subscription.

By 1970, Times Beach had a modest population of 1,240 people and was mostly a low-income housing development.

In December 1982, a devastating flood struck the town. The EPA's confirmation that the soil was tainted with dioxin coincided with it, and as a result, the town was evacuated by 1985 and completely demolished by 1992. John Ashcroft, the governor of Missouri, dissolved the town on April 2, 1985, by administrative order.


The Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company, Inc. (NEPACCO) commenced operations in the late 1960s from a plant in Verona, Missouri. Hoffman-Taff, a corporation that created the herbicide Agent Orange for use during the Vietnam War, controlled this plant. Syntex Agribusiness had acquired Hoffman-Taff by the time NEPACCO stopped operating in 1972.

Between 1970 and 1972, NEPACCO's main activity was the synthesis of hexachlorophene from 2,4,5-trichlorophenol and formaldehyde, an antibacterial compound used in soap, toothpaste, and common home disinfectants.

How the Times Beach became contaminated

Due to a lack of funding for paving its roads, the city hired oil sprayers to control the dust. A horse arena was sprayed in May 1971, and within a few days, the horses, cats, dogs, and birds in the vicinity all died.

NEPACCO, the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company, Inc., which had been creating Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, eventually revealed that the used elixir was a poisonous combination of oil and chemical waste.

Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin also called dioxin or the deadly chemical is a byproduct of Agent Orange. Between 1971 and 1976, Times Beach's roads were heavily sprayed, and horse ranches, churches, and small municipalities purchased the elixir.

Tests done by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1982 revealed that Times Beach was contaminated with dioxin in levels that were much over the limit of 1 part per billion that the EPA considers toxic.

The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Missouri Department of Health notify Times Beach, Missouri residents on December 23, 1982, that their town was contaminated after the chemical dioxin was sprayed on its unpaved roads, and that the community will need to be evacuated and destroyed.

This was in response to numerous illnesses, miscarriages, and animal deaths. People could become ill or perhaps die as a result of the impact of such levels on the land. The homes were demolished and buried, the polluted soil was burned, and the whole village was evacuated in 1985.

The Superfund provided compensation to the residents of Times Beach.


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