U.S. Rep. Jim Talent requests a shutdown of the Times Beach of the Times Beach dioxin incinerator


first published by the Riverfront Times (St. Louis),Oct. 2, 1996

Last Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jim Talent (R-2nd Dist.) requested an immediate shut down of the Times Beach dioxin incinerator pending an investigation into the mishandling of stack emissions samples at the controversial Superfund cleanup.

The congressman made the request in a letter to Elliot Laws, assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C. The letter also asked the agency to re-conduct the trial burn at the incinerator near Eureka to assure it is operating safely.

Talent, who is running for re-election against former Democratic Congresswoman Joan Kelly Horn, has long voiced opposition to the dioxin incinerator. His intermittent efforts to halt the project, however, have failed to bring about any change in plans. Talent’s latest attempt to put out the fire follows a copyrighted story in the Riverfront Times (“Twice Burned,”Aug. 28).

The RFT story revealed that International Technologies (IT), the incinerator operator, partially owns Quanterra Environmental Services, the laboratory that handled emissions samples from critical stack tests conducted at the incinerator in November 1995. After Quanterra received the samples, it took seven to eight days for them to reach Triangle Laboratories in North Carolina, according to EPA documents. Environmentalists suspect that improper handling of the samples during that time may have invalidated the test results. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the requisite operating permit based in part on the results of the laboratory analysis.

Although Talent referred indirectly to the RFT’s continuing investigation of the Times Beach project in his letter to the EPA, the congressman refused to be interviewed for this story. Talent’s reticence is not unique. Calls placed to the DNR last week also went unreturned. The EPA has had little to say either.

After the RFT filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to obtain information on Quanterra’s involvement in the project, the agency’s regional headquarters in Kansas City claimed no such records existed and denied any association with the laboratory. “Please be advised that EPA has no documents responsive to this request. Quanterra has no official relationship with EPA regarding the Eastern Missouri Dioxin Sites Cleanup, including Times Beach,” an EPA offcial stated.

The denial contradicts a clause in the 1990 consent decree signed jointly by representatives of the EPA, DNR and Syntex, the corporation liable for the cleanup. The consent decree states: “…Settling Defendants shall notify EPA and the State, in writing, of the name, title, and qulaifications of any supervising contractor, and the names of principal contractors and/or subcontractors proposed to be used in carrying out the Work. Selection of any such contractor shall be subject to approval by EPA, after consultation with the State, which shall not be unreasonably withheld. EPA shall notify the Settling Defendants in writing of its approval or disapproval within 14 calendar days of receipt of the notice.”

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