December 3, 1982 - The EPA visited the small town of Times Beach, Missouri on this day and took a soil sample that showed dioxin levels 100 times higher than what is considered to be hazardous to humans.
The abundance of this deadly toxin would lead to a complete evacuation of the town. The federal government would spend $32 million to relocate the citizens, plus another $110 million on the subsequent cleanup.
The town's problems began a decade earlier when a waste hauler named Russell Bliss was hired to spray oil on the many dirt roads in the area. It was an attempt to reduce dust pollution. Unfortunately it appears that Bliss was using a deadly cocktail of oil mixed with toxic waste.
Bliss had used a similar method in 1971 when he sprayed the substance around a stable which led to the deaths of 62 horses.
The situation in Times Beach was worsened by regular flooding that plagued the area. This helped spread the toxin across a vast area so that it permeated much of the town's topsoil.
Fear quickly spread that the poisoned environment was causing higher rates of illnesses, miscarriages, and animal deaths.
Times Beach was a virtual ghost town by 1985. One elderly couple refused to leave.
Former residents sued Bliss and the chemical company that produced the dioxin, but nobody was ever convicted of wrongdoing related to the toxic disaster. Bliss did serve one year in jail for tax fraud.
The area that was Times Beach is now the Route 66 State Park. There's a large grass mound that covers the debris from many of the demolished buildings that once stood there.