Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spring River Returns after Contamination Ran through It

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spring River Returns after Contamination Ran through It

Article excerpt

Another season has passed for Spring River and the people who have watched it come back from the edge of no return.

As the rain-swollen river rushed under a nearby bridge in southwestern Missouri, B.G. Baugh paused to think about how the river has shaped his life and how a chemical plant upstream at Verona, Mo., would change it. He worries about the legacy to be left to his children.

"Any Sunday, you could go down to Big Spring below Baptist Hill for a picnic," Baugh recalls. "It was a real gathering place. As a child, I wasn't afraid to drink right out of the spring. You could even drink water from this river. It was so clear you could see the rocks in the bottom. "You can't do that anymore. The spring's contaminated with coliform bacteria. The river, well, it's getting back on its feet. They say the fish are safe to eat now. I think I've seen the best of Spring River." Dioxin Contamination Sixteen years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation that would uncover dioxin contamination in the upstream part of the Spring River basin. The contamination was linked to a plant operated by Hoffman-Taff and later by Northeastern Pharmaceutical & Chemical Co. Hoffman-Taff manufactured Agent Orange, a defoliant used by U.S. military forces in Vietnam. Northeastern Pharmaceutical manufactured hexachlorophene, an antiseptic. The plant had generated 100 pounds of dioxin as a byproduct of production over several years. It was found in barrels, trenches and pits. It had been sprayed on farmland. It was transported over a wide area by a waste hauler who used it to oil down dusty roads. A lot of it found its way to Times Beach. "It was like a tough piece of meat: The more you chewed it, the bigger it got," an EPA official said of the ensuing investigation. Within a short time, the full extent of the dioxin poisoning in Missouri would be known. …

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