Subject:  #563: Why is EPA Ignoring Monsanto?
.                 WHY IS EPA IGNORING MONSANTO?                 .
.                          ==========                           .
.               Environmental Research Foundation               .
.              P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD  21403              .
.      Fax (410) 263-8944; Internet:       .
.                          ==========                           .
.  Back issues available by E-mail; to get instructions, send   .
.   E-mail to with the single word HELP   .
.    in the message; back issues also available via ftp from    .
. and from     .
.            and from            .
. Subscribe: send E-mail to .
.  with the single word SUBSCRIBE in the message.  It's free.   .


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 15 ordered a
grass-roots citizens' group in Missouri to turn over all of its
records to the agency within five days or face penalties of
$25,000 per day until the records are produced.  Steve Taylor,
leader of the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG) in Ballwin,
Missouri, and a frequent critic of EPA, says he and the group
have no intention of complying with EPA's order.

In demanding the information from TBAG, EPA's Michael J.
Sanderson cited Section 3007 of the federal Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act (RCRA), which empowers EPA to gather information
from the files of toxic dumpers and major polluters.[1]  This is
the first time the law has been turned against citizen activists
trying to protect the environment.

By invoking the law, EPA is threatening to destroy the Times
Beach Action Group; TBAG is so small that even one day's fine of
$25,000 would bankrupt the organization.  EPA's threat represents
a new twist on the phenomenon known as SLAPP suits.

SLAPP suits are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public
Participation.[2] They are an increasingly popular tactic being
used by polluters in the U.S. to intimidate and silence citizens
who voice concerns about destruction of the natural environment.
The parties that bring SLAPP suits rarely win, but they tie up
outspoken citizens in expensive and frightening litigation for
years, thus deflecting effort and attention away from whatever
the citizens had been speaking out about.

In a letter dated August 15 and delivered by Federal Express,
EPA's Region VII office in Kansas City, Kansas gave TBAG five
days in which to turn over copies of all its records related to
toxic dump sites in Missouri and Illinois.[1]  TBAG was formed in
1993 to oppose the incineration of contaminated soils excavated
from the town of Times Beach, Missouri --a town so contaminated
with dioxins and pesticides that federal officials evacuated all
the citizens from the town in 1983.

The town of Times Beach was contaminated in 1971 by a waste oil
dealer named Russell Bliss.  Bliss picked up toxic wastes from
Missouri chemical firms, mixed them with oil, and dumped them
into the environment.  Starting in May and June of 1971, Bliss
sprayed toxic waste oil onto roads and horse arenas in eastern
Missouri, ostensibly to suppress dust.  Some of the oil was
contaminated with the phenoxy herbicide 2,4,5-T and the 2,4,5-T
was, itself, contaminated with dioxin.  Three days after the
initial spraying, birds began dying.[3] "There literally were
bushel baskets full of those dead wild birds, " said Dr. Patrick
E. Phillips, a veterinarian with the Missouri Division of
Health.[4]   Then horses began to get sick.  Of 62 horses
affected, 48 died.  Dogs, cats, chickens, and rats died as well.
Two children were affected, one with a severe kidney disorder,
and were hospitalized for a time; they eventually recovered,
though one lost half her body weight in the ordeal.  The
children's illnesses brought federal investigators to the scene
from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.  The CDC
analyzed soil samples at the affected stables and found 30 ppm
(parts per million) of dioxin; 5000 ppm of 2,4,5-T, and 1350 to
1590 ppm of PCBs.[5]  CDC took great pains to identify the source
of the 2,4,5-T and the dioxin (they decided it was a
hexachlorobenzene germicide plant in Verona, Missouri owned by
Syntex Agribusiness, though leased to another firm) but the
source of the PCBs was never identified.  PCBs were produced from
1929 to 1976 by Monsanto, a St. Louis, Missouri, chemical giant.
It is clear that EPA was interested in the source of the PCBs
because in 1972 EPA's W.L. Banks was corresponding with W.B.
Papageorge at Monsanto Research Labs about PCB samples taken from
"the oil storage tank" at Russell Bliss's Waste Oil Disposal
Company.[6]  EPA even sent some of the Bliss samples to Monsanto.
Officials have never identified Monsanto as the source of any of
Bliss's PCBs.

CDC and EPA widened their investigation throughout the 1970s.
Meanwhile, Bliss continued to dump toxic oil at sites throughout
eastern Missouri.  By 1975, CDC recommended that people be
evacuated from the homes in Imperial, Missouri, a place more
contaminated than Times Beach, but EPA ignored CDC's

By 1983, EPA had identified at least 100 sites thought to be
contaminated by dioxin.  Mysteriously, the agency refused to
release the names of the sites.[7]   According to the NEW YORK
TIMES, in 1983 only 21 of the 100 sites had been sampled and the
Missouri DNR seemed to be dragging its feet.  The TIMES quoted
Fred A. Lafser, then director of the Missouri DNR, saying, "The
feeling is, why go look for more problems when we do not have the
staff to solve what we know about?"[7]

In a 1990 agreement with EPA, Syntex Agribusiness agreed to take
sole responsibility for the cleanup of 27 toxic dump sites in
eastern Missouri, including Times Beach.  In 1992 EPA decided to
incinerate 10,000 bags of contaminated soil from those sites.
When the plan was announced, citizens became alarmed that the
incinerator would be putting dioxin and other toxins into the
air, but EPA conducted a risk assessment to show that the
operation would be "safe."[8]  The Times Beach Action Group
(TBAG) formed in 1993 to oppose the incinerator.

As the incinerator project became a reality, TBAG became
convinced that EPA and Missouri DNR had identified neither all of
Bliss's contaminated sites in eastern Missouri nor the major
chemicals at each site. Specifically, EPA and DNR seemed to be
systematically ignoring PCBs. TBAG conducted its own
investigation of toxic dumps in Missouri and Illinois, gathering
thousands of pages of documents from state and federal sources
--all of it public information --including transcripts of
hearings, court trials and depositions, correspondence,
interviews, affidavits, and articles from technical journals.
Based on this information, TBAG's director, Steve Taylor has
accused federal and state officials of misfeasance, malfeasance,
nonfeasance, incompetence, corruption and dishonesty.
Furthermore, a talented investigative reporter, C.D. Stelzer,
writing for an alternative weekly newspaper, THE RIVERFRONT
TIMES, has done some investigating of his own and has
corroborated, and extended TBAG's charges.  Other environmental
groups, including the Gateway Green Alliance, have amplified the
accusations against government officials.

In sum, TBAG's information has been a constant embarrassment to
EPA and to the Missouri state Department of Natural Resources
because their documentary evidence is so compelling.  This is the
information EPA is demanding to see.  Steve Taylor's response is:
"EPA should do its own research."  He says he has tried to
interest EPA in TBAG's information in the past but the agency has
never even bothered to answer his letters.  Now they are
demanding all his files.

During 1996 and 1997, as the Times Beach incinerator project
progressed, Taylor and TBAG--

** showed that EPA's own internal documents admitted that the
incinerator could not destroy dioxin with the efficiency required
by law (99.9999% destruction and removal efficiency).  [See REHW
#280, #312.]

** showed that "chain of custody" had been broken for samples
taken from the incinerator.  Chain of custody is a strict, legal
paper trail that shows who took what samples when, to assure that
samples have not been falsified or tampered with;

** revealed that the laboratory analyzing the samples for the
Times Beach incinerator was 50% owned by the incinerator company
--a clear conflict of interest;[9] naturally, this makes the
broken chain of custody even more suspicious.

** revealed that EPA and the federal Centers for Disease Control
(CDC) knew about the contamination throughout eastern Missouri in
1974 but waited nine years before taking any action to protect
the public.  C.D. Stelzer caught EPA officials in outright lies
when they claimed they knew nothing about dioxin contamination in
Missouri until "after 1980."[10]

** revealed that the risk assessment for the Times Beach
incinerator did not consider PCBs or other priority pollutants
that were in the soil to be burned (a clear violation of federal
law) and that many EPA sampling records from many of the 27 sites
were missing from the agency's files;[11]

** revealed that EPA and Missouri DNR have refused to consider
abundant evidence indicating that some of the PCBs in eastern
Missouri came from one obvious source: Monsanto.[10]  Syntex
Agribusiness has, so far, borne the burden of the incomplete
cleanup alone.

Now the TIMES BEACH incinerator has done its work and has been
dismantled.  However, new sites contaminated by Russell Bliss
continue to be discovered, and TBAG says still more will be
found.  Furthermore, against all the evidence, EPA and DNR
continue to exclude Monsanto from their investigations of Russell
Bliss's illegal dumping.  Consider these facts: ** In a sworn
deposition April 21, 1977, Russell Bliss himself said he picked
up wastes from Monsanto.

** In a memo dated September 26, 1980, James H. Long, an official
of Missouri DNR, identified Monsanto as one of the company's
known to use Russell Bliss for hauling chemical wastes.

** On October 30, 1980, officials of the Missouri DNR and the
Missouri attorney general's office interviewed Scott Rollins, one
of Russell Bliss's truck drivers who was at the time serving a
term in the state penitentiary.  Rollins said he recalled very
clearly picking up wastes from Monsanto.

** In an interview January 5, 1981, Judy Piatt --owner of one of
the horse farms where animals died from Bliss's oil --said she
had followed Bliss's trucks in 1972 and had personally watched
them pick up wastes from a Monsanto plant and then illegally dump
them by the roadside.

** February 9, 1983, Russell Bliss himself testified before a
hearing of the Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Commission
that he had a contract with Monsanto to haul away chemical wastes.

** Based on evidence presented at trial, a judge in Cole County,
Missouri, November 30, 1984, concluded that Russell Bliss had
dumped hazardous wastes, including PCBs, in Dittmer, Missouri and
that "the only known source" of one of the chemicals (bromophenyl
chlorophenyl ether) was Monsanto.

Monsanto has denied ever having given Bliss any waste containing
dioxin or PCBs.  So far, officials of U.S. EPA are taking
Monsanto at its word and, instead of investigating the chemical
giant, are investigating and harassing the citizens who have
brought these documented facts to light.

                                                --Peter Montague
                (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
[1] Correspondence dated August 15, 1997, from Michael J.
Sanderson, Director, Superfund Division, Region VII, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Kansas City, Kansas, to Mr.
Steve Taylor and to Times Beach Action Group c/o Mr. Steve Taylor.

[2] George W. Pring and Penelope Canan.  SLAPPS: GETTING SUED FOR
SPEAKING OUT (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996).

[3] Coleman D. Carter and others, "Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin: An
Accidental Poisoning Episode in Horse Arenas," SCIENCE Vol. 188,
No. 4189 (May 16, 1975), pgs. 738-740.

[4] "Death of Animals Laid to Chemical," NEW YORK TIMES August
28, 1974, pg. 36.

[5] Renate D. Kimbrough and others, "Epidemiology and Pathology
of a Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin Poisoning Episode," ARCHIVES OF
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 32, No. 2 (March/April, 1977), pgs.
77-86.  And see Mary G. Beale and others, "Long-term Effects of
Dioxin Exposures," LANCET Vol. 1, No. 8014 (April 2, 1977), pg.

[6] Correspondence from W.L. Banks, Chief, Oil and Hazardous
Substance Branch, Region VII, U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, to W.B. Papageorge, Monsanto Research Labs, St. Louis,
Missouri, September 12, 1972.

[7] Robert Reinhold, "Missouri Now Fears 100 Sites Could Be
Tainted by Dioxin," NEW YORK TIMES January 18, 1983, pgs. A1, A23.

[8] C.D. Stelzer, "Terrified in Times Beach," RIVERFRONT TIMES
April 26, 1995, pg. 1.  Available on the world wide web at:

[9] C.D. Stelzer, "Twice Burned," RIVERFRONT TIMES August 28,
1996, pg. unknown.  Available on the world wide web at:

[10] C.D. Stelzer, "Dangerous Ground --Dioxins aren't the only
problem in Missouri.  PCB contamination continues to be
overlooked or denied by both public regulators and Monsanto,"
RIVERFRONT TIMES February 14, 1996, pg. 1.  Available on the
world wide web at:
And see: C.D. Stelzer, "Dioxin, PCBs, the Military Industrial
Complex and National Security," RIVERFRONT TIMES February 14,
1996, pg. unknown.  Available on the world wide web at:

[11] C.D. Stelzer, "Why the Times Beach Incinerator Should be
Shut Down," RIVERFRONT TIMES November 20, 1996, pg. unknown.
Available on the world wide web at:

Descriptor terms:  pcbs; superfund; incineration; epa; monsanto;
mo; il; russell bliss; waste oil; dioxin; 2,4,5-t; pesticides;
citizen groups; steve taylor; times beach; times beach action
group; tbag; rcra; slapp suits; syntex agribusiness; c.d.
stelzer; investigative reporting;

Environmental Research Foundation provides this electronic
version of RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY free of charge
even though it costs our organization considerable time and money
to produce it. We would like to continue to provide this service
free. You could help by making a tax-deductible contribution
(anything you can afford, whether $5.00 or $500.00). Please send
your tax-deductible contribution to: Environmental Research
Foundation, P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403-7036. Please do
not send credit card information via E-mail. For further
information about making tax-deductible contributions to E.R.F.
by credit card please phone us toll free at 1-888-2RACHEL.
                                        --Peter Montague, Editor