BY C.D. STELZER
Previously unpublished, Feb. 14, 1996
Whenever PCBs or dioxin are mentioned, secrecy seems to
descends: doors close, sources become unavailable,
Freedom of Information requests go wanting, and lies are
Former U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) recognized
early the consequences of such a flawed policy. "If we
were discussing national security such as the A-bomb or
nuclear warheads, I could see where there would have to
be a cloak of secrecy," Eagleton told the St. Louis
Globe-Democrat in 1982. ... "But we are discussing a
situation that is affecting people's lives. ... The worst
thing is for there to be secret leaks that may be
misleading to the people in those affected areas,"
That the senator referred to national security is
telling. From the beginning, the military-industrial
complex has inhabited the edges of the dioxin
Hoffman-Taff and Monsanto, of course, both
originally manufactured a chemical component of Agent
Orange for use by the Army in Vietnam. But Monsanto's
military connections predates that era by decades. As far
back as World War II, the chemical company did work for
the government. In 1944, for example, the St. Louis Star
Times reported that Monsanto had gained approval from the
Army to produce a catapulting rocket" fashioned after the
German "robot bomb," an allusion probably to the early V
2 missiles used by the Nazis.
Another intriguing detail is that Syntex --
Hoffman-Taff's parent and the company ultimately held
liable for the Times Beach cleanup -- is incorporated in
Panama, a center for clandestine banking and
The Roche Group, a Swiss-based pharmaceutical
conglomerate bought Syntex in 1994. During World War I,
the allies suspected Hoffman-LaRoche of aiding Germany.
More recently, the company's American subsidiary
provided a hallucinogenic drug, quinuclidinyl benzilate,
known as BZ, to the U.S. Army. The Army Chemical Corp is
reported to have conducted human experiments using BZ at
the Edgewood Arsenal between 1959 and 1974.
There are also indications of a close working
association between public health officials and the
military. As already stated, health officials were
steered to the Verona plant by the Defense Contract
Administrations Services, a part of the Pentagon. In
addition, one of the early investigators of the Missouri
dioxin case had a background tied to the armed forces.
In a 1975 deposition relating to the Piatt case, Coleman
Carter, a physician for the U.S. Public Health Service
(PHS), testified he had joined the health agency less
than two years before, while still a commissioned officer
on active reserve duty. Carter worked under the auspices
of the Epidemiological Intelligence Services (EIS). EIS
had been specifically set up to respond to the threat of
biological warfare, according to Alexander D. Langmuir,
the chief epidemiologist for the PHS from 1949 to 1970.
In addition, the Bliss Waste Oil Co. picked up used
motor oil from Ft. Leonard Wood near Rolla. One former
Bliss driver alleged that the company also collected
waste from Scott Air Force Base near Belleville. IPC,
the St. Louis company that sub-contracted Bliss to haul
the dioxin-contaminated waste from Verona, was a
subsidiary of Charter Oil. During the 1970s, Charter Oil
engaged fugitive financier Robert Vesco, and Billy
Carter, the brother of Pres. Jimmy Carter, to negotiate
trade deals with Libyan dictator Moammer al-Qaddafi.
Perhaps the most bizarre footnote to this toxic
odyssey are the tete-a-tetes Bliss reportedly shared with
the late U.S. Rep. Richard Ichord (D-Mo.) In a 1980
prison interview, an alleged Bliss Waste Oil Co.
employee, recalled witnessing meetings between his
former employer and the ultra-conservative congressman. A
transcript of the interview is on file at the IEPA
offices in Collinsville. According to the transcript,
DNR and EPA officials and an assistant Missouri attorney
general interviewed inmate Scott Rollins at the Missouri
Penitentiary in Jefferson City. Rollins is quoted as
saying Bliss met Ichord, on more than one occasion, at an
unspecified restaurant and the two would sometimes leave
Ichord is probably most remembered for being the
last chairman of the House Un-American Activities
Committee, and a zealous anti-communist. After leaving
office, he became a lobbyist for the extreme-rightwing
American Freedom Coalition, which received funding from
the Unification Church, founded in Korea by the Rev. Sun
Myung Moon. During his tenure in Congress, the
congressman also strongly supported chemical weapons. In
1980, Ichord pushed a more than $3 million appropriation
through Congress for a binary nerve gas facility at the
Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas. In the prison interview,
Rollins mentions that Bliss also did business in that
state, but didn't say where.
Whether the congressman and the waste oil hauler
ever met is, for now at least, still a matter of
conjecture. But it is clear that they both, in their own
ways, contributed to massive pollution problems. The Army
is now faced with destroying tons of chemical weapons.
In this way, it faces the same kind of problem the EPA
has at Times Beach. Local residents in both circumstances
oppose the use of incineration as a means of destroying
In a 1970 speech before the St. Louis County Chamber
of Commerce, Ichord, warned that the environmental
movement could someday be subverted by the radical left.
Speaking at Slay's restaurant in Affton, the congressman
said, "Solving the problems of pollution will require
sound and pragmatic actions from state and city
governments, plus massive volunteer activities as well as
the support you have the right to expect from the federal
Although Taylor, the organizer for TBAG, would
likely not match the late congressman's profile of a good
citizen, he agrees that the federal government, in
particular Congress, does have an important obligation.
"The Times Beach Action Group has always wanted to
uncover the truth about what's been happening with these
toxic sites," says Taylor. "We have requested a
congressional investigation from (Rep.) Jim Talent. Also,
we've sent a letter requesting (the same) of (Sen.
Christopher "Kit") Bond."
TBAG hasn't heard back from Bond. They're not
holding their breath.