The Environmental Protection Agency today released preliminary results of tests on 10 composite samples that showed flood debris in Times Beach, Mo., is not contaminated with the toxic chemical dioxin.
A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the EPA tests, conducted with silt on debris that had been piled in the streets of Times Beach, showed concentrations of less than one part per billion.
The spokesman said the test results "serve as a preliminary indication that dioxin probably does not exist in the silt associated with the debris in concentrations greater than one part per billion."
Authorities had suspected that record flooding that swept through the tiny St. Louis suburb early last month had contaminated the debris. The flooding came just after EPA technicians discovered dioxin in the soil at levels up to 100 parts per billion, and authorities fear the flood spread the dioxin around the town.
The chemical, a byproduct in the manufacture of herbicides, apparently still remains alongside city streets, where it was sprayed mixed with oil as a dust-control measure in the early 1970s.
State and federal officials have been trying to move the debris to a landfill near Wright City, Mo., but Warren County authorities there have blocked the transfer, arguing that they do not want the debris if it is contaminated.
Circuit Judge Edward D. Hodge had granted the county's request for a temporary restraining order preventing the transfer but ordered the county to post a $75,000 bond or he would dissolve the order.
But Warren County Presiding Judge Leonard Sutton said late tonight that the county would not post the bond in light of the test results.
"We could have raised the $75,000," Sutton said in a telephone interview. "But we didn't file it because we felt a judge would say just ship the debris because it's not hazardous and we'd lose our $75,000."
Hodge had ordered the bond posted to cover costs incurred by the state in keeping a dozen trucks loaded with debris in Times Beach awaiting a decision on whether they could transfer it.
Angry Times Beach officials have said that, if the debris is not moved soon, they may act on their own to pile it near state highways.