Times Beach: Ignorance is Bliss

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At the risk of being pedantic, was I the only one left scratching my head after reading the front-page article, “Is site safe? Doubts persist in Wildwood,” in Tuesday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch?

The 1,100-word story told of a controversial plan to build homes atop a toxic dump site in west St Louis County. As P-D reporter Stephen Deere notes, “It’s hard to believe that Russell Bliss used to call this area home and that he buried hundreds of 55-gallon drums filled with pharmaceutical waste beneath it.”

Before going into depth about the city’s reaction to the planned development, Deere briefly mentions how the property’s former owner contracted with chemical companies in the 1960s and ’70s to dump toxic waste on the land.

Nothing else was mentioned about Russell Bliss – including the fact that he is perhaps one of the nation’s most notorious environmental polluters.


2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) -- commonly known as dioxin.
2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) -- commonly known as dioxin.

2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) -- commonly known as dioxin.
In the 1970s the city of Times Beach, Missouri, hired Bliss to maintain its roads. Bliss found that spraying the streets with a mixture of oil and dioxin went a long way in settling the dust kicked up from the town’s dirt roads. The deadly concoction also poisoned Times Beach. In 1983 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared the city a Superfund site and allocated $33 million to buy out all homes and businesses in Times Beach. You can read more about Bliss and Times Beach in this 2004 article published in...the Post-Dispatch.

I don’t mean to be critical of Deere’s reporting, and God knows I always don’t get all the facts straight. But you’d think an editor would have alerted Deere to this omission. Then again, after all the recent buyouts at the paper one might compare the institutional memory at the Post-Dispatch to Times Beach. Empty and abandoned.

-Chad Garrison

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