Picher, Oklahoma, a town close to the border between Oklahoma and Kansas was once a thriving mining hub; today, mounds of toxic garbage around this abandoned town. It was featured in the Science Channel series What on Earth? Season 10 Episode 91, in 2021.
Table of Contents
Picher, Oklahoma’s Mining Industry Story
When lead and zinc ore was found in northeastern Oklahoma in 1913, the community of Picher nearly appeared out of nothing. It has the name of O. S. Picher, the proprietor of the Picher Lead Company which ran a number of further local mines.
By year’s end, large-scale mining had started, and Picher’s population had grown rapidly. After the city was formally formed in March 1918, it continued to expand. The population peaked in 1926 at around 14,000.
There was a decline in the lead and zinc mining sector. The mines closed and the labourers began to disperse. There were only about 2,000 people living there by 1980, and they were surrounded by toxic waste dumps.
Lead poisoning symptoms soon started to appear in the local population. In 1983 the city was designated as a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency, which then began acquiring properties. And the population virtually vanished in 2008 following a tornado. Picher, Oklahoma is currently referred to as “America’s most toxic ghost town.”
Inside “The Most Toxic Ghost Town in America” Right Now
The fatal tornado wreaked havoc on the already struggling town of Picher. Buildings were destroyed, homes were leveled, and the remaining residents were left in a state of shock and despair. The tornado not only took a toll on the physical buildings of the town but also further decimated its population.
There were only 1,640 residents remaining in Picher in 2000. The population was gradually declining until an EF-4 tornado struck in 2008.
Numerous homes and businesses in the local area were damaged, and six people lost their lives. Since it was unsafe for them to stay in their homes, many more residents moved out. The state of Oklahoma formally disincorporated Picher on September 1, 2009. And there were only 20 people living there in 2010.
In 2015, Gary Linderman, the town’s only surviving businessman and dubbed the “last man standing,” passed away. Picher is now a deserted ghost town with many boarded-up windows and “Keep Out” signs. The once bustling mining community is still surrounded by chat piles, some as tall as 200 feet, which serve as a reminder of its hardworking past to anyone who happens to pass by.