The former town of Picher, OK, has been described as the most toxic Superfund site in the United States. For almost half a century, this town of about 1,600 people was home to the world’s largest lead mine. The mining company hollowed out the land under the town, piled the tailings on apparently any empty lot — sometimes just feet from housing — and finally abandoned the whole works, letting the mine galleries flood and causing lead to seep into the groundwater.
Here are some pictures of it.
The mine waste is in mountainous piles all around the town. I would recommend visiting on a rainy day.
No what? Sorry, sign’s too faded to read.
The feds started the process of leveling all of the houses in town, but of course left all of the concrete pads, which gives the whole place a bizarre and frightening Hiroshima look. The rattling chains and slamming screen doors don’t help.
I say started the process, because they apparently got to where they were halfway done with this house and then ran out of money. I would say that about 1/3 of the original buildings are still up, with no apparent effort to tear them down.
As is always the case with these sorts of places, there are a few crazies — their initially precarious grip on reality not helped by the lead poisoning — who think that the whole thing is a “gummit plot” to get them off their land, and so refuse to leave. I didn’t approach too closely, because they’re almost certainly cooking meth and had aggressive-looking dogs chained up. You can see how close the mine waste is to the housing, however.
When they knocked down the houses, they left the cable boxes as they’re property of the cable company, which means that the woods that have grown into the abandoned lots are studded with them.
Fire hydrants are also, apparently, too much work to remove. It will look even more bizarre in 50 years when the woods are fully grown in.
They knocked down the house that was here, but left the pole with the TV antenna and satellite dish.
They knocked down the house, but not the chimney.
This looks like it should be an Ataris album cover, except I accidentally got my car in the picture.
It’s interesting to see how wooden buildings decay with water damage. The wood warps instead of just coming apart into sticks, which gives you all kinds of crazy shapes.
This one seems to have burned, which must have done wonders for the lead dust problem.