A Modern Ghost Town
Picher and its neighboring towns of Treece, Kansas and Cardin, Oklahoma were the industrial center of the Picher Field, an enormous vein of lead and zinc that produced $20 billion in ore between 1917 and 1947. Over 1,400 mine shafts were dug in this area and the ore provided for the vast majority of the US bullets fired in WWI and WWII.
Today, all three of the towns are ghost towns evacuated by the federal government because they are poisoned and toxic environments due to improper mining practices.
A Disaster of Epic Proportions
The problems that led to Picher's abandonment/evacuation are threefold: water poisoning, undermining, and air poisoning.
Dust in the Wind
The first thing anyone notices upon approaching Picher are the enormous chat piles that surround the entire town. Chat is a friendly word for "mine waste" and is one of the main reasons this place is considered to be toxic. Heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium and lead are found in the chat, which ranges in consistency from gravel to dust. The chat dust is especially problematic, as it blows in the wind and coats everything near the chat piles in a fine layer of toxic particles.