No health risk found in Missouri state park soil

EUREKA, Mo. (AP) — Soil samples show no significant health risks for visitors or workers at an eastern Missouri state park established in 1999 on the former site of a town shut down due to dioxin contamination, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA released its report this week on the soil sampling it conducted on Route 66 State Park in Eureka at the request of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The sampling used new technology that tests for trace amounts of dioxin.

The park sits on the former site of Times Beach, a St. Louis County town that was shut down due to dioxin contamination in the early 1990s. The contamination was the result of material sprayed on streets to keep dust down.

The EPA report released Monday found "very low" levels of dioxin at the state park, "showing that the past remedial actions on site were effective in meeting the cleanup goals," according to the report.

EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said the finding "confirms that the work EPA and (DNR) did in the 1990s to clean up this site continues to provide a safe recreational area for the public."

A DNR spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an interview request on Wednesday.

EPA collected surface soils from trails, shelters, picnic areas, the playground, the proposed location for a dog park and other areas of the park.

The study used more sophisticated technology than was previously available and was done in part to give EPA a better understanding of dioxin, which could help in future dioxin contamination cases, EPA officials said at the time of testing in June.

Times Beach, along the Meramec River, was for years a popular summer resort area. By the 1970s, though, it was a mostly working-class town of about 2,200 residents, with many of its streets still dirt.

The town hired a contractor to spray oil on the streets to keep the dust down. That oil was contaminated with dioxin, a highly toxic chemical that can cause cancer and other serious diseases.

By the mid-1980s, Times Beach had joined Love Canal, N.Y., as two of the nation's worst disasters involving dioxin. Times Beach was evacuated, and then-Gov. John Ashcroft ordered it disincorporated in 1985. EPA classified it as a superfund site, and by 1992 the town was completely demolished.

EPA then began extensive cleanup that included the removal of several tons of soil that were replaced with clean backfill. Eventually, the land was turned over to the state for use as a park. Soil testing over the years has confirmed that residual dioxin concentrations at the old Times Beach site were within EPA guidelines.

The new testing allowed for detection of even trace amounts dioxin. It was part of a study that seeks to help develop better procedures for assessing dioxin risks, broadening EPA's understanding of dioxin. The EPA said the study will help guide federal and state agencies in addressing future dioxin concerns around the country.

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