Picher, Oklahoma was once a thriving lead and zinc mining town producing more than any other mining town in the area. As mining operations declined, so did the population. Eventually, those left in the town realized they lived in the most toxic town in America. Today, only six families and one business remain.
Gary Linderman owns the Old Miner's Pharmacy, the last business in town. Linderman claims he will remain in Picher as long as people from the surrounding area need his help, and they do. Most of the remaining residents of surrounding areas suffer from the toxic lead exposure. A 1996 study of Picher found that 34% of the children in town had lead poisoning. A resident of nearby Miami, OK told us that while the school was still open, other teams refused to set foot on Picher's football field.
If being named the most toxic town in America by the EPA wasn't bad enough, in 2008 an F4 tornado killed six and injured 150. By 2009 residents had voted to dissolve the Picher school system and by November 2013 the municipality of Picher was officially dissolved.
The environmental and health nightmare that is Picher and the surrounding areas is massive. Contaminated water from some 14,000 abandoned mine shafts, 70 million tons of mine tailings, and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge make the water supply undrinkable and the removal of several feet of topsoil make most structures too unsafe to occupy (most have already been torn down).
You can still visit Picher, if you dare. The network of mining tunnels and shafts creates a constant risk of cave ins, but the sight of this almost-ghost town is truly breathtaking.