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But do they have any bottlecaps?
September 5, 2010 5:26 PM   Subscribe

"Places like Picher are why Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980—better known as the Superfund bill." - Wired Magazine on the most toxic town in America, Picher, OK , and the people who still live there
posted by The Whelk (21 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
(previously)
posted by The Whelk at 5:39 PM on September 5, 2010


Beautiful story, innit?
posted by theredpen at 6:09 PM on September 5, 2010


looks like tv.com (CBS) has it available for streaming here
posted by nervousfritz at 6:28 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't full understand the tribe's cleanup plans, and I'm always nervous that one person's cleanup is another person's sweeping-the-dirt-under-the-rug (ie, trucking it to a poorly-contained landfill nearby). And I know that cost is always an issue during cleanups, so negotiating the cleanup method is a thankless task full of compromises.

All that said, people who clean up contaminated properties or waterbodies have one of the most noble professions. Done right, it's the kind of work that generations will be grateful for.
posted by salvia at 6:39 PM on September 5, 2010


wish i stayed awake in geology class and then understand the mineral and metal lingo's impact even more.
posted by tustinrick at 6:41 PM on September 5, 2010


Is this Toxic Waste Week on MeFi? Did I miss the announcement?
posted by indubitable at 7:32 PM on September 5, 2010


A lesson for the Alberta tar sands, from 50 years in the future.
posted by HLD at 7:38 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


(not that I'm complaining; Hell, it spurred me to find out that I drive by a Superfund site on the way to grab lunch maybe once a week)
posted by indubitable at 7:40 PM on September 5, 2010


It'll be interesting to see how the Quapaw will proceed with the cleanup, and I feel bad for the residents who had to leave.

The TV coverage of the tornado's aftermath was pretty devestating, too.
posted by dragonplayer at 8:17 PM on September 5, 2010


I really wonder how much "belligerent hometown pride" John Garner will have when his underage children end up with livelong chronic medical conditions because their dad was too stubborn to move after the land was declared unfit for habitation.

It's one thing if you aren't worried about poisoning yourself, but forcing kids to breathe in lead dust all day since you're attached to the town you grew up in is horrifying.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:46 PM on September 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


they figure that cooking or freezing will eliminate any toxins

Jesus.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:54 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wondered that, too, Kellydammit.

Looking at the town in googlemaps (satellite view) is pretty horrifying.
posted by rtha at 8:56 PM on September 5, 2010


I remember, back in high school, doing a project for current events. I got a map of the county, and spent a couple days doing basic research. With different colored highlighters, I mapped out the different forms of pollution in and around Kalamazoo, which, in addition to being home (at the time) to Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, had been home to paper mills and other forms of industry. One of the former mills (down the hill from my childhood home) was, if I'm not mistaken, declared a superfund site. I only bring this up because it seems like there are a good number of Mefites in and around Kalamazoo.

That map was covered in all sorts of colors, and very little of the county seemed remotely safe after that.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:05 PM on September 5, 2010


Everett Green, who runs an 80-head cattle operation just outside of Picher, didn’t leave and says he lets his cows graze on chat-grown grass and drink from mill ponds before selling them at auction—after which they could be distributed across the US. “Of course, we hardly ever eat one of our own cows,” he says, chuckling.

I believe this man qualifies for a round of "Christ, what an asshole."
posted by armage at 9:28 PM on September 5, 2010 [19 favorites]


armage, agreed. That was one of the most disturbing parts of the article.
posted by salvia at 9:32 PM on September 5, 2010


Sometimes, Picher makes me wonder what kind of nasty stuff they dug out of the coal mines and left to leach into the creeks where I used to play as a kid.
posted by wierdo at 10:06 PM on September 5, 2010


I used to teach about 20 miles away in Joplin. One day about ten years ago we took some students over to Picher where we went on a tour. There were still hundreds of people there at the time, even though it was clear that the town was a doomed toxic death trap. The mayor explained that part of the problem was that nearly everyone who understood that lead is bad for you had moved away, leaving just the folks who thought it was fine and dandy to eat some lead dust every day. "I grew up here and worked in the mines for forty years, are you saying there is something wrong with me!!!?" was their attitude.

What I remember best is going to where Tar Creek bubbles up out of the mines, the water was a bright toxic orange. Hard to figure how you ever fix that.

Lead contamination and hazards from old mines are pervasive throughout the region. At least once a year a forgotten shaft collapses and swallows up a chunk or a road or someone's yard in Joplin. Old mine pits and chat piles sometimes dominate the otherwise fairly flat landscape. People tell me it was much worse 30 years ago, that much of the chat was sold and hauled away. It was popular for use in school playgrounds for many states around.
posted by LarryC at 10:23 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everett Green, who runs an 80-head cattle operation just outside of Picher, didn’t leave and says he lets his cows graze on chat-grown grass and drink from mill ponds before selling them at auction—after which they could be distributed across the US. “Of course, we hardly ever eat one of our own cows,” he says, chuckling.

Japan's ban on imports of US beef does not sound insane after all...
posted by gen at 10:23 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


No point really, but I'd like this chance to share that on Earth Day 1990, the day after seeing a Laurie Anderson show, I ate a picnic lunch of White Castles in what was at the time the most toxic city in America, Times Beach.

I left with a pair of baby shoes.
posted by sourwookie at 10:50 PM on September 5, 2010


No point really, but I'd like this chance to share that on Earth Day 1990, the day after seeing a Laurie Anderson show, I ate a picnic lunch of White Castles in what was at the time the most toxic city in America, Times Beach.

I left with a pair of baby shoes.


For sale. Baby shoes. Right one never worn.
posted by hal9k at 2:30 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


She keeps a small garden with tomatoes and zucchini and okra, and he picks wild asparagus from around the edges of the chat piles, hunts quail and duck, and fishes for bass in nearby rivers. Both say they figure that cooking or freezing will eliminate any toxins.

Methinks the lead has already gotten to them.
posted by spitefulcrow at 11:45 AM on September 6, 2010


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