In the 1980s, the town of Times Beach, Mo. hired a contractor to spray the town’s dirt streets with oil to cut down on dust. That oil was later found to contain extremely high levels of dioxin, a known cause of cancer. Tests in the town revealed levels of dioxin 300 times what is considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Nearly 30 years after Times Beach was evacuated, scientists with the EPA are returning to the site once again, this time for a new round of testing. The study is meant to test out new technology, which scientists expect will allow them to detect even smaller levels of dioxin pollution.
EPA spokesman Chris Whitley says Times Beach was chosen specifically because of the background of data EPA already has—and in no way reflects a new risk associated with the site.
"We simply have new technology that we’re going to be able to take into a sight where we know what the conditions are and we are going to be able to apply that technology and see how it works," he said.
Whitley says Times Beach, now Route 66 State Park, was cleaned up and reopened to the public in 1997.
"It’s a property that we know has been thoroughly cleaned up, we know quite a bit about the soil conditions there," Whitley said. "So we are going to be able to take this new science and technology and apply to see just how this works."
The tests are expected to take about 30 days and the park will remain open.