Oak Grove Village Well
Oak Grove Village is one of many of the cool single-toxic Superfun! sites across the U.S.—though with an unusually sweet and lovely name—that attests to just how much fun one lil’ toxic can generate. In 1986, TCE was found in the municipal drinking well of this tiny town—which led to the discovery of a TCE plume (we love that word, it’s so evocative) that so far includes the Ozark aquifer, a bunch of public and private wells in Oak Grove Village and the adjacent small city of Sullivan, the landfill and nearby groundwater in Sullivan, and the air and water in Meramec Caverns, which is a hugely popular tourist attraction. Much of the fun of this site is that the TCE source is a mystery. The EPA’s best “where did it come from” guess is the former TRW Automotive plant—which, before it closed in the 1980s, had facilitated a great deal of vehicle-related merriment by manufacturing piston rings for our cars (and using lots of TCE, a popular solvent and degreaser), while also sending loads of high-toxic waste to the landfill. Who knows, though?—the mystery remains, as does the TCE plume—but the EPA eventually closed the landfill and wells and fitted other wells with filters. TRW had fun remediating the plant site—and in 2016, agreed to keep the capital fun going by installing vapor locks, vents, scrubbers, and other toxics-be-gone technology in Meramec Caverns, which had closed, briefly, 30 years after the detection. To date, the EPA continues to play the challenging game here of “let’s figure out where the toxic chemicals come from and where they go,” and to figure out how the hell to remove the TCE from the Ozark aquifer—while the plume remains “uncontrolled and undefined” and continues to grow.