ST. LOUIS -- Federal and Missouri environmental officials yesterday announced an agreement intended to pave the way for cleanup of the dioxin-contaminated ghost town of Times Beach, Mo., after seven years of study and negotiations.

Morris Kay, regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced that Syntex Agribusiness Inc., a chemical and animal health company, will build and later demolish an incinerator to burn the tons of dioxin-tainted soil from Times Beach and 27 other sites in eastern Missouri contaminated in the 1970s when waste oil containing dioxin was sprayed on roads to keep dust down.

Syntex, based in Palo Alto, Calif., did not produce the dioxin. But the government considers Syntex a responsible party because the dioxin was produced by a tenant in a Verona plant owned by a company Syntex later acquired.

The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by U.S. District Judge John F. Nangle. But both Kay and Syntex spokesman Ray Forrester said preliminary work could begin within days of the judge's decision.

Times Beach, about 20 miles southwest of St. Louis, has been deserted since 1983, when the federal government bought up all 801 homes and businesses and moved the people out.