The photographer that goes under the pseudonym Seph Lawless is back at it again.
This time he’s toured Picher, Oklahoma — the most toxic city in America.
What was once a vibrant mining city has been turned into a toxic ghost town through improper care and disposal of the 14,000 abandoned mine shafts in the region.
What is left of the town is documented in Lawless’ new photo book, called The Prelude: The Deadliest City in America.
Even getting into Picher, Oklahoma is not easy. Roadblocks have been erected on roads leading to the town since it was evacuated in 2006.
The land was found to be rich in lead and zinc ore, and between 1917 and 1947 $20 billion dollars worth of the toxic materials were mined out of the Pitcher region.
In fact, the region contributed half of all lead and zinc materials used during the US's involvement in World War II.
When the mines stopped operating in 1967, they left behind this byproduct known as chat piled high like mountains across the region.
100 million tons of chat are still left in the Tri-State area, which includes the former mining regions of southwestern Missouri, southeastern Kansas, and northeastern Oklahoma.
The mines closing meant the groundwater was no longer being pumped out of the mine shafts and away from the hazardous substances.
Eventually, the groundwater flooded the abandoned mines and mixed with the toxic materials left in the mine and reached the surface.
The problem is so bad the whole area was declared part of the Tar Creek Superfund site, slated to be cleaned up by the EPA.
In 1982, a test of the underground aquifer showed lead and cadmium levels 5 times the national acceptable standards for drinking water.
In 2006, government officials were so horrified by the condition of the extensive contamination, they declared it uninhabitable.
Due to the large amount of material taken out of the Earth by mining operations, it was found that a large number of the city's buildings were in imminent danger of caving in.
Many families left behind clothing, furniture, and their entire homes -- unsellable with the environmental dangers.
Making matters, an EF-4 rated tornado swept through the region in 2008, killing 8 people and injuring another 150.
Its last resident, the owner and operator of the town's only pharmacy, died on June 6, 2015 from a 'sudden illness' at 60 years of age. Picher now stands as an eerie ghost town, devoid of human life.
'I was terrified. I remember trying to relax my hands because they were shaking so badly,' Lawless told us.
'I kept thinking the earth could open up any minute and swallow me and no one would ever know,' Lawless says. 'At one point my foot went through the ground and I fell to the ground thinking I was going to cave in and die.'
'I looked up and just started driving in the opposite direction just to avoid the storm since it was tornado season, Lawless told us.
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