Disturbing Pictures From One Of The Most Polluted Rivers In The Country

Androscoggin River

Photo: DOCUMERICA – Charles Steinhacker

The Androscoggin River flows nearly 170 miles, beginning in New Hampshire and continuing through Maine before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.In the 1960s, it was considered one of the most polluted rivers in the country.

Paper and textile mills located along the river’s banks released oxygen-depleting chemicals that killed fish and led to algae blooms that made some sections of river impossible to swim in. The lingering stench of rotten eggs was another symptom of pollution.

Androscoggin’s decline served as a catalyst for the Clean Water Act passed in 1972. One year later, photographer Charles Steinhacker documented evidence of water pollution along the Androscoggin River for the Environmental Protection Agency. The following pictures are from this set taken around June in 1973.  

Although the river is much cleaner than it used to be, it has never met state or federal standards for clean water. Water quality continues to be a key issue. 

The Androscoggin River Flows between the cities of Auburn and Lewiston in Southeastern Maine. Lewiston Is the state's second largest city and textile centre.

The third largest river in Maine is a popular destination for kayakers and trout fishers; it also has a history of severe pollution.

From above, the Oxford Paper Company Mill in the town of Rumford on the Androscoggin River.

Founded in 1941, the mill was one of the three largest on the Androscoggin River.

Logging trucks checking in at the Oxford Paper Mill.

A pile of bark lies in the foreground of the Oxford Paper Company Mill. The Oxford Hills are in the background.

Outflow at the Oxford Paper Company. Sulfite liquors, chlorines and excess pulp from the manufacturing process, known as effluents, caused algal blooms and oxygen depletion.

A view north along the Androscoggin River from the Brown Paper Company in Berlin, New Hampshire.

Founded in 1852, the facility closed in the 1980s. Here, waste is shown flowing into the river.

This lumber mill is the oldest industrial plant on the river. The Androscoggin was the heart of Maine's logging industry in the 1820s. By the mid 19th century, a majority of the area's pine had been depleted.

Trash burns at the riverside dump in Gorham, which lies in the midst of some of New Hampshire's most beautiful country.

The International Paper Company Mill in the town of Jay. The plant was sold to the Verso Paper Company in 2006.

A flume carries untreated wastes to a clarifier at the International Paper Company.

Errol Dam at Lake Unbagog, the source of the Androscoggin River, on the Maine-New Hampshire border. Dams have exacerbated the effects of pollution by further depleting oxygen levels.

A sign warns of the river's health hazards near the Maine-New Hampshire border.

The river is much cleaner today, but is still plagued by environmental problems. Mills are concerned that enforcing pollution control will hurt the town's economy.

More from the Environmental Protection Agency

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