Sunday, 12 June 2016

The most toxic place in America

Tucked against the Kansas border in the upper north-east corner of Oklahoma is a place that was once called Picher.  I say once because in 2008 the town's charter was decertified and it no longer officially exists.

When I travel through Oklahoma it was hard to imagine that not so long ago this state created the great “Dust Bowl” resulting in the huge migration to California.  So badly had man decimated the land, in an attempt to squeeze every last penny out it, that they killed “the golden goose”.

Having learned, or so we would have thought, the lessons taught from an experiment gone wrong resulting thus in the  great "Dust Bowl", why then did Picher come about?

The answer would appear to be greed.
Between the WW1 and WWII, 75% of all the bullets and artillery rounds fired came from the minerals of Picher's mines.  Once again the land was squeezed for every cent that could be extracted from it, at a cost that matched the "Great Dust Bowl".  The tragic byproduct of all these bullets and shells, besides the killing of their victims, was the death and destruction heaped upon the residence of Picher and it's surrounding areas. An unfathonable 34% of Picher's children suffered from lead poisoning due to this environmental disaster.

Talk about a contradiction
A byproduct of the mining are these enormous mounds of sand, ore and rock that contained huge amounts of lead, zinc and arsenic to the point that it is now among a small number of world locations that had to be evacuated and declared uninhabitable due to environmental health damage caused by Picher's mines.

One of the many mountains of poisonous lead and zinc

In 2008 Picher was struck by an F4 tornado that was the straw that broke the towns back.  Picher is called the "Most Toxic Town in America".  Its residences are now gone, the US government buying out the homeowners.  Most of the buildings have been razed and only their empty concrete slabs remain.

The Football mascot is all that remain of the once proud team.

The Fire hall and EMS station with flag and tornado siren stand, but no one works here anymore.

Rusting equipment sits beside empty lots that once housed the buildings that serviced them.
The only thing left standing is this home's tornado shelter.
 Homes once sat on these slabs, now all raised by the US government, only the poison mountains remain.

Today, Picher has been declared uninhabitable due to environmental and health damage caused by the mines that were once the town's lifeblood while at the same time being its grim reaper.

Time to travel to more uplifting places. 


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