Muscat Daily - - BREAK -

In Saint Charles County, Mis­souri, near Wel­don Spring, ad­ja­cent to High­way 40, lies an enor­mous mound of rocks, ris­ing out of the ground like an an­cient burial tomb.

Un­der­neath it lies tonnes of haz­ardous waste pro­duced by a chem­i­cal plant that once stood in its place. To­day, Wel­don Spring draws thou­sands of cu­ri­ous vis­i­tors each year. They climb to the top of the 75 foot tall dome to read the plac­ards that tell the story of the sad his­tory of com­mu­ni­ties that dis­ap­peared in 1940 to make way for the world’s largest ex­plo­sives fac­tory.

Be­tween 1940 and 1941, the US Army pur­chased over 17,000 acres of land in Saint Charles County, just out­side of St Louis On those lands hap­pened to sit three pretty towns with rolling wooded hills - Ham­burg, How­ell and Toon­erville.

They were im­me­di­ately evac­u­ated. Hun­dreds of homes, busi­nesses, churches, schools and any other build­ings in the area were ei­ther de­mol­ished or burned and within a few months, the three towns ceased to ex­ist. A mas­sive fac­tory was erected to man­u­fac­ture TNT and DNT in or­der to sup­ply Al­lied troops in the Word War II.

The Wel­don Spring Ord­nance Works, op­er­ated by At­las Pow­der Com­pany, em­ployed more than 5,000 peo­ple and con­tained more than 1,000 build­ings. By the time the plant ceased pro­duc­tion on Au­gust 15, 1945, the day the Ja­panese sur­ren­dered, it had pro­duced more than 700mn pounds of TNT.

Af­ter the war, the army be­gan sell­ing off pieces of the land. The State of Mis­souri ac­quired 7,000 acres, while the Univer­sity of Mis­souri bought another 8,000 acres, which was later sold to the Con­ser­va­tion De­part­ment.

Th­ese pieces of prop­erty are to­day the Busch Me­mo­rial Con­ser­va­tion Area and the Wel­don Spring Con­ser­va­tion Area.

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