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Route 66 State Park Tests Safe For Dioxin; Other Sites Under Review

Art Chimes

The Environmental Protection Agency says recent testing for dioxin at Route 66 State Park shows it poses no risk to park workers or visitors.

The park is the site of the former town of Times Beach, which was evacuated and razed in the 1980s after it was found to be severely contaminated with dioxin, a known carcinogen.

The EPA subsequently cleaned up the site by removing contaminated soil.

EPA regional spokesperson Chris Whitley says the agency now has more sensitive lab equipment for detecting dioxin than it did decades ago — and a better understanding of the chemical and its potential risks.

“Unless you ingest soil, unless you have soil in your mouth, or breathe dust, considerable amounts of dust from soil that would be contaminated with dioxin, you’re probably not going to be exposed to it,” Whitley said. “At least from a site like this.”

Whitley says the latest round of soil testing at Route 66 State Park was spurred when the EPA set a new health standard for dioxin last spring.

But the popular park near Eureka is just one of many sites in Missouri that may need more testing.

Whitley says there are almost 200 sites in the state — some industrial, some residential — that at some point have been tested for dioxin.

Forty-two had enough of the potentially cancer-causing chemical that they needed to be cleaned up. But Whitley says the EPA is now giving them a second look.

“This is going to be a long-term effort in terms of evaluating, are there places that we would go back to, to either do additional sampling, and if sampling would bear anything out, whether there would be additional work done,” Whitley said.

Whitley says another 155 sites have never undergone remediation, because previous testing found little or no dioxin. Those sites are not currently under EPA review.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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