The story

Wearing powder blue pants and a plaid fedora, 84-year-old Orval "Hoppy" Ray arrived fashionably late to a celebration in Picher, Oklahoma, a vacated mining town at the center of one of the nation's largest and most polluted toxic-waste sites.

Former residents, bought out by the government because their town was deemed so dangerous, gathered in Picher's elementary school to say farewell to a place where kids suffered lead poisoning, where homes built atop underground mines plunged into the Earth and where the local creek coughs up orange water, laced with heavy metals.

A toothpick dangling out of the corner of his chapped mouth, Ray greeted several old friends as if he were in any other small town in America. Read full article »

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