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10 places ruined by man-made catastrophes

lead warning sign

Photo: peggydavis66/Flickr

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Picher, Okla.

The modern-day ghost town of Picher, Okla., is a woeful example of gross contamination from a local lead and zinc mine. Surrounded by giant piles of toxic metal-contaminated mine tailings, in 1983 Picher was declared to be the center of a 40-square-mile Superfund site. In the mid-1990s, studies found that about a third of the children living in Picher had elevated blood levels of lead. Over the years residents have been offered voluntary buyouts from the state and federal goverments, and in 2009 the city and school district dissolved.