"'Last Man Standing' at Wake for a Toxic Town"

"PICHER, Oklahoma -- 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."

John D. Sutter reports for CNN June 30, 2009.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009