Times Beach, Missouri: Abandoned City Demolished due to Dioxin Exposure

Approaching the abandoned American ghost town of Times Beach, Missouri (now demolished) (Image: Alan Berning, cc-nc-sa-4.0; Times Beach ghost town, Missouri)

At over 2,000 miles from coast to coast, it’s no wonder that the United States is a repository of abandoned cities and settlements, from Wild West ghost towns like Bodie in California to modern ruins such as Centralia, Pennsylvania. And just as Centralia became a ghost town after suffering a strange underground mine fire which still burns today, the city of Times Beach, Missouri was abandoned just 60 years after its founding in 1925 due to the worst case of civilian exposure to dioxin in U.S. history.

Times Beach, Missouri: Abandoned City Demolished due to Dioxin Exposure (Image: Disasters Channel, low res screenshots via YouTube)

Located just 17 miles southwest of St. Louis, Times Beach was a thriving resort town during the Roaring Twenties, an easy escape for urbanites looking for a break from the big city. But when summer homes became less practical following the Great Depression and post-World War Two petrol rationing, the city declined into a low income community supported by a small store and gas station serving travellers along Route 66, the historic highway connecting Chicago to Los Angeles.

times-beach-missouri-abandoned-1990 (Image: Lee Paco Industries, low res screenshot via YouTube)

Though the first several decades since its founding brought economic woes to Times Beach, the ailing city’s final death knell was dealt in the 1970s due to an environmental disaster of epic, if local, proportions. Plagued by dust problems due to miles of unpaved roads, a contractor was hired to spray waste oil onto the area’s highways to contain the spread of dust. And thus came the beginning of the end.

times-beach-missouri-abandoned-2002 (Image: Lee Paco Industries, low res screenshot via YouTube)

Unfortunately, some of the waste had come from a facility operated by Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company (NEPACCO). The site had once produced Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and dioxin levels in samples of analysed waste clay were found to be several thousand times higher than those in Agent Orange itself.

times-beach-missouri-abandoned-2012 (Image: Lee Paco Industries, low res screenshot via YouTube)

Following the deaths of more than 60 horses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched an investigation. The government sued NEPACCO in 1980, and panic gripped the town as numerous illnesses, miscarriages and animal deaths were attributed to the dioxin contamination.

times-beach-missouri-abandoned-4 (Image: Disasters Channel, low res screenshots via YouTube)

President Ronald Reagan formed a task force in 1982 after the EPA officially announced alarmingly hazardous levels of the pollutant at Times Beach. Dioxin was at the time considered “the most toxic chemical synthesized by man”. By 1983 PCBs had also been identified in the soil, and the city of Times Beach was almost completely evacuated and quarantined two years later.

times-beach-missouri-abandoned-5 (Image: Disasters Channel, low res screenshots via YouTube)

In the years since the environmental disaster, some experts have questioned whether the town’s evacuation was absolutely necessary. But for better or worse, the abandoned city in Missouri was destined to become a modern ghost town prior to the demolition of all but one of its buildings.

times-beach-missouri-abandoned

times-beach-missouri-abandoned-2 (Images: Lee Paco Industries; Disasters Channel; low res screenshots via YouTube)

The site of Times Beach has since been reborn as Route 66 State Park, where experiments in 2012 showed no significant health risks from its original contamination. Today, a grassy mound hides the remains of the abandoned city’s original structures, while an old roadhouse – the last remaining building in Times Beach – which had once been used by the EPA now serves as the park’s visitor centre.

Keep reading – Explore 20 Haunting Ghost Towns of the World

 

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