Latitude / Longitude:
36°58′58″N 94°49′58″W / 36.98278°N 94.83278°W / 36.98278
820 ft (250 m)
Central (CST) (UTC-6)
Picher is a ghost town and former city in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, United States. This was a major national center of lead and zinc mining at the heart of the Tri-State Mining District.
More than a century of unrestricted subsurface excavation dangerously undermined most of Picher’s town buildings and left giant piles of toxic metal-contaminated mine tailings (known as chat) heaped throughout the area. The discovery of the cave-in risks, groundwater contamination, and health effects associated with the chat piles and subsurface shafts resulted in the site being included in 1980 in the Tar Creek Superfund Site by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The state collaborated on mitigation and remediation measures, but a 1996 study found that 34% of the children in Picher suffered from lead poisoning due to these environmental effects, which could result in lifelong neurological problems. Eventually the EPA and the state of Oklahoma agreed to a mandatory evacuation and buyout of the entire township. The similarly contaminated satellite towns of Treece, Kansas and Cardin, Oklahoma were included in the Tar Creek Superfund site.
In April 2009, residents voted 55–6 to dissolve the Picher-Cardin school district; it graduated its final class of 11 in May. By 2009 the district’s enrollment had dropped to a total of 49 students from approximately 343 students years prior. Remaining students were assigned to attend Commerce and Quapaw school districts. The Picher Mining Field Museum, which had been housed in the former Tri-State Zinc and Lead Ore Producers Association building, was destroyed by arson in April 2015. The museum archives had previously been sent to Pittsburg State University, and other artifacts had been sent to the Baxter Springs, Kansas Heritage Center and Museum. The final resident, Gary Linderman, owner of the Ole Miner Pharmacy, died on June 9, 2015, at the age of 60 from a sudden illness, which officially made Picher a ghost town and brought its population to 0.
Picher is among a small number of locations in the world (such as Gilman, Colorado; Centralia, Pennsylvania; and Wittenoom, Western Australia) to be evacuated and declared uninhabitable due to environmental and health damage caused by the mines the town once serviced.