A major Missouri tourist attraction is forced to close due to a health hazard.

KDSK TV reported that the EPA discovered traces of a chemical vapor at Meramec Caverns that could cause birth defects. The attraction is located in Franklin County, near the town of Stanton.

The site’s campground should be full of RVs, tents and campers this time of year, but owners fear it may remain empty for months to come because of the closure and contamination of the cavern.

Meramec Caverns is having a difficult year that started with significant damage from December’s flooding.

“The water was 31 feet high,” said Lester Turilli, vice president of Meramec Caverns.

In early March, testing by the EPA showed the presence of a harmful chemical vapor in the cavern. The owners decided to close it down, and that means turning away many of the 100,000 annual visitors who come primarily for cave tours.

“The cave is the anchor that draws all the other business to this area. If the cave is not open, unfortunately, not a lot of people want to camp,” said Turilli.

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