Times Beach, Missouri in Eureka, Missouri
The former resort town of Times Beach, Missouri was a community located on the famous Route 66 that ended up being the site of one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history when like something out of a superheroes origin story, the motor oil used to control dust in the town was laced with toxic waste.
In the early 1970’s the city of Times Beach hired Russell Bliss to spray its 23 miles of unpaved streets with used motor oil to help control the town’s rampant dust problem, a technique Bliss had previously used in horse stables, as well as on his own property. Unbeknownst to his civil employers however, Bliss, a waste hauler by trade, had also been hired by a company called IPC to dispose of a toxic waste material known as dioxin which is generated by the production of Agent Orange and hexachlorophene, a chemical once widely used in disinfectants. In an effort, to kill two birds with one stone, Bliss combined the chemical waste with his motor oil and proceeded to spray the mixture at various sites around Missouri. This shady spraying continued for four years between 1972 and 1976.
Bliss has since maintained that he was unaware of the hazardous nature of the chemicals he saturated Times Beach with. However his culpability is a moot point since the entire town of Times Beach was evacuated in 1983 after dangerous levels of dioxin were detected in the soil, and the town was officially disincorporated in 1985. The land had been so contaminated with the harmful dioxin that the land was made off limits for decades. In fact, after the Times Beach scare, then President Ronald Reagan identified dioxin as, "the most toxic chemical synthesized by man."
As it turns out this is not strictly true as modern reports have identified it as not quite as harmful as previously thought, leading to speculation as to whether the town’s evacuation was even necessary. Regardless, the land was converted into Route 66 State Park in 1999 and as of 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency tested the soil and determined that there is no significant danger to the people or wildlife.