Vaughn Wascovich

The Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma, USA is the largest and most heavily polluted toxic site in the country, and was designated a toxic Superfund Site by the federal government in 1983. This 40-square-mile area of northeastern Oklahoma includes five cities with a combined population of over 30,000.

At least half of the polluted land is on one of a dozen Indian reservations. The air, ground and water is severely contaminated with heavy metals including lead, zinc, iron, cadmium, and arsenic, due to more than 80 years of mining activity. In addition, the area is plagued with open ventilation shafts and constant mine cave-ins. Approximately 75 million tons of chat (mine tailings which contain dangerous levels of toxic metals) remains on the surface of the ground.

I am attempting to document not only the current environmental problems found here but also to understand and demonstrate through my photographs the population’s close relationship to this land — and that in spite of the obvious hazards, they are reluctant to leave.

— Vaughn Wascovich, Commerce, Texas, USA