If you love baseball you know that Mickey Mantle is from a small town in Oklahoma called Picher. However, are you aware that almost every single resident of that town has moved away over the years and it is practically a ghost town?
Almost three decades ago, Picher, Oklahoma was declared one of the most toxic towns in the United States. Today, about six people remain in the town and have watched it disappear right before their eyes. Neighbors have relocated away, buildings have been demolished, and those that still stand are boarded up. A tornado in 2008 killed seven people and destroyed much of what remained.
Picher was founded in 1918 as a small mining town and that’s where all the trouble began. Waste from the lead and zinc mining was what did the town in. The waste was used to build driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots. Though the last mine closed in 1970, the land became so contaminated that people moving away actually had to do so for their health. In fact, the 40 miles in and around Picher have been declared a Superfund toxic waste site.
Its no wonder people wanted to move away from Picher. The water comes out of the ground almost a bright orange. The chat, or mine waste, lies all over the town and is full of lead and other heavy metals toxic to animals, plants, and people. Sadly, many children born and raised in Picher have developed learning disorders due to the lead.
In 2005, the federal government began buying families out and offered the last buyout in 2010. Both City Hall and the high school closed in 2009.