Little Bits of History

No More Beach Parties

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 3, 2013
Times Beach, Missouri advertisement

Times Beach, Missouri advertisement

December 3, 1982: Soil samples are tested at Times Beach, Missouri. In 1925, the St. Louis Star-Times, a newspaper in Missouri, bought up a parcel of land along the Meramec River. Lots measuring 20 x 100 feet sold for $67.50, with a six-month subscription to the newspaper included. Early on, it was a summer resort area for people in the city. But first the Great Depression and then gasoline rationing during the Second World War made the idea less attractive. Instead, the small community became mostly low-income housing.

The land is in the vast floodplain of the Meramec as it flows toward the Mississippi River. The town was 17 miles southwest of St. Louis. Some of the original houses were built on stilts. There was one small grocery store and one gas station on old Highway 66 to service the town. Times Beach became less affluent and by 1970 was plagued with a dust problem. This was exacerbated by the 23 miles of dirt roads servicing the community.

The town could not afford to pave the roads but the dust stirred up by traffic needed to be reduced. Times Beach hired Russell Bliss to spread oil on the roads to reduce dust. Bliss was a waste hauler and was able to oil the roads from 1972 to 1976 using waste oil costing only six cents per gallon. Bliss was also hired by Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company (NEPACCO). This company produced hexachlorophene and also made Agent Orange for the Vietnam War.

Bliss started using waste oil in stables in 1971. Sixty-two horses died but Bliss assured stable owners it was only motor oil. It wasn’t. The oil had been mixed with NEPACCO waste. By 1979, Bliss’s use of dioxin-laden oil on the roads was brought to the attention of the Center for Disease Control. The EPA was called in and dioxin levels were shown to be more than 100 times the safe limit. In 1982, the area was flooded in the spring thaw and spread the dangerous toxins. In 1985 the city was disincorporated and evacuated. NEPACCO’s parent company, Syntex, paid $10 million toward cleanup. A special incinerator was built to burn 265,000 tons of soil and then dismantled. The US government paid the remaining $100 million for the restoration of the lands.

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I’m not an environmentalist.  I’m an Earth warrior.” – Darryl Cherney

“The insufferable arrogance of human beings to think that Nature was made solely for their benefit, as if it was conceivable that the sun had been set afire merely to ripen men’s apples and head their cabbages.” – Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac

“Such is the audacity of man, that he hath learned to counterfeit Nature, yea, and is so bold as to challenge her in her work.” – Pliny the Elder

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Environmental concerns are sometimes pushed aside by businesses seeking profits over conservancy of the Earth or human and animal health. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was enacted in 1976 and is the US federal government’s attempt to control the disposal of solid and hazardous waste. The chemicals produced by NEPACCO and relinquished to Bliss for disposal would be considered hazardous waste. Syntex, a pharmaceutical company formed in Mexico City, manufactured several different advantageous medications and were eventually integrated into the Roche group in 1994. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), is designated by law to clean up contaminated sites with hazardous substances causing health issues. Times Beach is a ghost town now acting as Route 66 State Park. The EPA retested soil from the park in 2012 and found the soil to be safe for visitors or workers in the park.

Also on this day: Bhopal – In 1984, the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India emits a huge cloud of noxious gases

Have a Heart – In 1967, the first heart transplant was performed.
Neon – In 1910, the Paris Motor Show Opened with some new sign display.

Apple Day

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2013
Apple Day

Apple Day

October 21, 1990: The first Apple Day is held in Covent Garden, London. Sue Clifford and Angela King founded Common Ground in 1983. The two environmentalists remain Directors of the UK charity and lobby group. Their mission is to promote “local distinctiveness.” Rather than the flamboyant or rare causes championed by other conservation groups, the women concentrated efforts on the commonplace, everyday possibilities for increasing environmentally sound practices. After the Great Storm of 1987, they advocated for cautious clean up efforts to give nature a chance to recover by herself.

Local produce, rather than imported food, became the groups next focus. The richness and variety of home or locally produced foods were symbolized by the apple. Common Ground chose the fruit to act as a reminder to Britons to think and act locally. The apple tree also led to a greater appreciation of nature’s resources. Orchards were precious commodities and deserved protection against rampant expansion. Community orchards could and should be protected and Old Orchards venerated as valuable assets.

Apple Day continues to be celebrated. The event has gained momentum and strength to become a weekend event. The date shifted from October 21 to the weekend closest to the date or in some areas, any time in the last half of the month. Communities engage in large or small celebrations usually held in gardens. There are games and cooking demonstrations in a fair-like atmosphere. Gardening advice is shared. And there are hundreds of varieties of apples along with apple juice or cider to drink.

The first week in December finds another chance to honor trees. Tree Dressing Day was also initiated by Common Ground in 1990. It encourages the celebration of trees. The idea is to show Every Tree Counts and is beneficial to all. The Tree Manifesto maintains that all trees should be protected. Ancient woodland trees are irreplaceable, for trees – life begins at 400. Trees are essential to the carbon dioxide/oxygen cycle. Paper should be recycled, saving the precious trees. Planting trees and hedgerows benefits us all, but should be done with thoughtful care, making sure the proper tree is given the proper home.

“First I shake the whole [Apple] tree, that the ripest might fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf.” – Martin Luther

“The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion the horse, how he shall take his prey.” – William Blake

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” – Carl Sagan

“Goodness comes out of people who bask in the sun, as it does out of a sweet apple roasted before the fire.” – Charles Dudley Warner

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: People have worried about the environment and advocated for better use of resources for quite some time now. There are days, weeks, years, and even decades set aside for this. Special days throughout the year are noted from February 2 (World Wetlands Day) through December 11 (International Mountain Day) along with some days moving around the calendar. All of these special days can be either worldwide, national, or local in scope. The weeks cover issues from Bike to Work Week Victoria to World Water Week in Stockholm. The first International Polar Year was 1882-1883 while the last dedicated year was 2011 with celebrations around the International Year of Forests. We are currently in the midst of the decade known as United Nations Decade on Biodiversity. While environmental issues cover everything from Climate Change to Waste, and not everything has time dedicated to it, there are many working towards helping Mother Nature recover from the harm brought on by humans.

Also on this day: Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
USS Constitution – In 1797, the ship was launched.
Disaster – In 1966 the Aberfan disaster took place.