Disturbing Photographs Reveal What America Looked Like Before The EPA

A strip mining rig featuring billowing plumes of soot, pictured here in 1973. EPA/Documerica/US National Archives

4 – The Atlas Chemical Company spreads smoke across pasture land (June 1972)

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This type of proximity can still be seen today, but far stricter pollution limits are now in place. 

5 – Illegal dumping off the New Jersey Turnpike, across from Manhattan (March 1973)

Such behavior is prosecuted much more harshly today, largely thanks to the EPA’s efforts.

6 – The Georgetown Gap, where raw sewage flowed straight into the Potomac (April 1973)

This type of sewage dumping method is no longer permitted, as you might hope.

7 – Children play near a smokestack (August 1972)

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The now-illegal levels of arsenic and lead in these smokestacks almost certainly would have cut the lives of those in this picture short by several years.

8 – Trash builds up on the shore of Baltimore Harbor (January 1973)

Again, such sights are rare these days across much of the US thanks to the work of the EPA.

9 – The Clark Avenue Bridge in Cleveland (July 1973)

The area was once largely obscured by smog coming from the nearby heavy industry.

10 – Fight For Your World (June 1972)

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Schoolchildren at Fort Smith being taught that awareness of environmental destruction alone won’t help; action is necessary to affect change.

If you'd like to see more of these remarkable images, click here.

Remember, this is the world you could see yet again with the way things are going. Almost all of the key nominations for the EPA today have been people with strong ties to the petrochemical or fossil fuel industries, and this emotional exchange during a recent confirmation hearing between a Senator and one such nominee represents nothing less than a battle for America's future.

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All photographs: US National Archives

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