(Reprinted from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste Management Programs. Hazardous
Waste Disposal Damage Reports No. 2, EPA/530/SW-151.2, December, 1975, revised March, 1976.)



January 1976

Dioxin Poisoning
Caused by Improper Waste Disposal in Missouri

1. Personal Damage - Toxic illness of varying degrees affecting ten persons. The worst illness occurred in a six-year-old girl who suffered an inflammatory reaction of the kidney and bladder bleeding, requiring hospitalization and surgery. Less severely affected persons developed diarrhea, headaches, nausea, polyarthralgias, and persistent skin lesions

2. Environmental Damage - Contamination of the soil with an extremely toxic substance in three horse arenas and a farm road. The death of six dogs and twelve cats, and the destruction of a large number of birds and insects.

3. Economic Damage - The death of at least 63 Appaloosa and quarter horses, which resulted in loss of business and subsequent sale of one of the horse arenas. Also, medical expenses and cleanup costs. The estimated total financial loss, based on filed lawsuits (excluding punitive damages), is close to $500,000.

4. Cause of Problem - Contact with soil containing 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD, commonly referred to as dioxin), a contaminant in the waste oil which was sprayed in three horse arenas and a farm road as a dust control measure.

5. Type and Quantity of Hazardous Waste - Approximately 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of waste oil containing about 300 ppm dioxin was sprayed on the affected areas.

6. Source of Waste - The waste oil was obtained by Bliss Waste Oil Co. from North Eastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Co., where industrial waste residues from hexachlorophene production were kept in a storage tank.

7. Date of Incident - The dioxin-contaminated waste oil was sprayed on three horse arenas and a farm road in May and June 1971. Birds died within three days and the first horse within four weeks of the spraying. Horses exposed to the contaminated arena soil in May and June 1971 continued to die as late as January 1974.

8. Location - Near the towns of Moscow Mills, Fenton, New Bloomfield, and St. James, Missouri.

9. Status - Remaining 4,600 gallons of dioxin-contaminated distillate residues are in an industrial storage tank. State and Federal officials are actively seeking a safe disposal method for the material.

10. Remedial Action Taken - The contaminated soil was excavated during the period from October 1971 to August 1974 and graded under a new concrete highway, dumped at a sanitary landfill, and in one case (before the identification of dioxin) used as residential landfill.

11. Legal Action Taken - Two law suits, for a total of $954,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, have been filed by the former owners of one of the horse arenas against Bliss Waste Oil Co., North Eastern Pharmaceutical Co., and Independent Petrochemical Corp. Also, a lawsuit for $60,000 has been filed by several horse owners against one of the other two horse arenas.

12. Narrative - In August 1971, a six-year-old girl was admitted to a Missouri children's hospital with severe bladder pain, urinary urgency, and inability to pass urine. She was listless, had been bleeding from the nose, and had diarrhea and a headache. Over a period of several hours she gradually was able to void in small amounts, but her urine was grossly bloody.. Her case was diagnosed as acute hemorrhagic cystitis with signs of focal pyelonephritis.

    A significant clue in this case was that the child lived on a farm where many animals had recently died. Following the spraying of the farm's horse arena in late May with waste oil for dust control , numerous birds, cats, dogs, and horses developed a mysterious fatal illness. The child was known to have played frequently in the soil of the horse arena during the summer, as in a sand box.

    Analysis of soil samples taken from the arena initially identified a complex mixture of organic compounds, including trichlorophenol and polychlorinated biphenyls. The toxic agent responsible for the outbreak of poisonings was ultimately identified as dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known. Based on animal studies, both the oral and the dermal lethal dose for humans have been established in the range of micrograms per kilogram body weight.

    Dioxin is a by-product from the manufacture of the herbicide 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and related compounds. The Hoffman-Taff Company's production of 2,4,5-T in Verona, Missouri , was terminated in February 1969. The company was subsequently acquired by Syntex Agribusiness, Inc. The new owners of the manufacturing facility sold the equipment and leased the plant space to the North Eastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Co. (NEPACCO) which produced trichlorophenol as an intermediate for the manufacture of hexachlorophene. The toxic by-product dioxin. is also formed in the manufacture of trichlorophenol The residues containing a high concentration of dioxin were emptied for about 1 l/2 years into a large storage tank on the site.

    Periodically, the residues were hauled away by a disposal company to Louisiana for incineration. In 1971, NEPACCO contracted with Independent Petrochemical Corp. (IPC) of St. Louis for $4,625 to dispose of the residues. Not actually equipped to handle waste disposal, IPC subcontracted with the Bliss Waste Oil Co. to remove the material. The company is owned and operated by Russell Bliss, who deals in waste oil, lubricants, organic solvents, and transformer oils generated by automobile service stations and industrial sources. For many years, Mr. Bliss has been spraying the nonrefinable grades of waste oils on horse arenas as a means of dust control.

    From February to October 1971, the Bliss Waste Oil Co. transferred six truckloads (approximately 18,000 gallons) of industrial residues containing about 300 ppm dioxin from NEPACCO's storage tank in Verona to its own storage tanks in eastern Missouri. Mr. Bliss received no payment from IPC but was paid by the horse arena owners where he sprayed the oil. Three horse arenas and a farm road on Mr. Bliss' own property are known to have received the dioxin-contaminated oil. The dioxin concentration of the soil in the most seriously affected horse arena was analyzed at about 30 ppm. The overall toll in the four disposal areas can be summarized as follows: ten persons developed toxic symptoms (two children became seriously ill), and at least 63 horses died along with 6 dogs, 12 cats, 70 chickens, hundreds of birds, and numerous rodents and insects. In addition, there were 26 known abortions and 6 birth abnormalities among the horses. The toxicological as well as other aspects of this case have been well documented.(1)(2)

    NEPACCO went out of business in December 1971. The Verona manufacturing facilities reverted to Syntex Agribusiness, Inc., which disclaims all legal responsibility for the inherited 4,600 gallons of toxic residues in the industrial storage tank. Syntex has expressed willingness, however, to pay for the safe disposal of the wastes. Several alternative disposal methods have been considered, including incineration at sea.

1. Carter, C.D., R.D. Kimbrough, et al. Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin: an accidental poisoning episode in horse arenas. Science, 188:738-740, May 16, 1975.
2. Shea, K.P., and B. Lindler, Pandora and the storage tank. Environment, 17(6):12-15, Sept. 1975.

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