Picher was once a small but vibrant town in Oklahoma, now is another toxic wasteland killed by Lead Pollution.Gifted with a soil rich in lead, zinc, and iron ore, quickly after was founded in 1913, Pitcher became a mining boomtown.
The city was incorporated in 1918, and by 1920, Picher had a population of 9,726. Peak population occurred in 1926 with 14,252 residents.A townsite developed overnight around the new workings and was named Picher in honor of O. S. Picher, owner of Picher Lead Company.
More than a century of unrestricted subsurface excavation dangerously undermined most of Picher’s town buildings and left giant piles of toxic metal-contaminated mine tailings (known as chat) heaped throughout the area. The discovery of the cave-in risks, groundwater contamination, and health effects associated with the chat piles and subsurface shafts resulted in the site being included in 1980 in the Tar Creek Superfund Site by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The state collaborated on mitigation and remediation measures, but a 1996 study found that 34% of the children in Picher suffered from lead poisoning due to these environmental effects, which could result in lifelong neurological problems. Eventually, EPA and the state of Oklahoma agreed to a mandatory evacuation and buyout of the entire township. The similarly contaminated satellite towns of Treece, Kansas and Cardin, Oklahoma were included in the Tar Creek Superfund site.
The Picher area became the most productive lead-zinc mining field in the Tri-State district, producing over $20 billion worth of ore between 1917 and 1947. More than fifty percent of the lead and zinc metal used during World War I were produced by the Picher district. At its peak, more than 14,000 miners worked the mines and another 4,000 worked in mining services. Many workers commuted by an extensive trolley system from as far away as Joplin and Carthage, Missouri. Mining ceased in 1967 and water pumping from the mines ceased. The contaminated water from some 14,000 abandoned mine shafts, 70 million tons of mine tailings, and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge remained as a huge environmental cleanup problem. As a result of national legislation to identify and remediate such environmentally hazardous sites, in 1980 the area was designated as part of the Tar Creek Superfund site.