Marilyn Leistner

When Route 66 was in its infancy, Times Beach was an idyllic summer-resort community situated along the Meramec River that drew people from St. Louis  in search of a respite from the summer heat.  Over the following decades, it would transform into a suburban community with over 1200 year-round residents.  Route 66, however, still ran right through the town and tourists enjoyed eating catfish and Fried Chicken at the Steiny’s Inn.  Then came the early 1980s, when a major flood and reports about toxic waste contamination devastated the community.  In the midst of this double catastrophe, Marilyn Leistner was elected Mayor and led the community in fighting for better terms but ultimately in accepting a federal buy-out with superfund money.  It was an extremely hard job that tore the community apart at its core and pitted neighbors against one another, as rumors flew, domestic violence increased, marriages ended, people went bankrupt, nervous breakdowns occurred, children and adults became ill and two mayors resigned. Looking back Marilyn says, “There are things I would have done differently…Everything we left behind is in a huge mound the size of four football fields.  They refer to it as a ghost town.”  It cost 500 million dollars to bury what was left of Times Beach.

 

 

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