3 Abandoned Places That Are Likely Damaging Our Earth

A place, once bustling and booming with life, becomes thoroughly vacated. Whether due to financial reasons, legal issues or something else, amusement parks, properties and even entire towns sometimes become abandoned. Most of the time, items at the site are left to rot away and can damage the environment since they are not properly disposed of. That means fuel, chemicals, paint and other harmful liquids are exposed to the elements in canisters that rust and then rot. When deterioration occurs, containers that hold toxic contents seep out into the earth.

There are many factors like this where abandoned places can negatively affect our environment. But whose job is it to clean these areas up? Volunteers can’t step foot on many of these restricted and unsafe areas without evading health risks or imprisonment for trespassing. Plus, there are many government-owned abandoned places like military bases, making it unlikely that the government will take ownership and responsibility for each and every single one of these situations; their deserted locations are often left astray as well.

Many instances have occurred where soil and site areas test positive for radiation or other toxins at places of abandonment. Following disasters or evacuation, even many years afterwards, some places contain little to no signs of viable life, wildlife and even certain plant growth. Particular whereabouts, especially those in which radioactive incidents transpired, are just too hostile and unlivable. Here are three examples of disclaimed locations that are likely harming our environment:

1. Chernobyl

The disaster that took place at the Chernobyl power plant in the late 1980s sent large quantities of radiation through the now abandoned city of Pripyat and into the atmosphere, affecting what was then the western USSR and Europe. The explosion and fire sent toxins into the air, causing cancer for many who were exposed. This was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. Many local residents had to evacuate temporarily and many Pripyat citizens had to evacuate permanently, leaving most of their belongings behind. Some of the debris was cleaned up by workers wearing protective gear, but the site of the power plant and abandoned city of Pripyat still remain.

The Chernobyl disaster caused four hundred times more radioactive material than that of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and aftereffects of the toxic release still linger. Immediately after the tragic event, the forest turned reddish brown and died. Wildlife like horse and cattle also died after their thyroid glands stopped working from radiation overdose. A robot sent into the reactor revealed radioactive black fungi growing on the walls at the power plant site. Water from the area that was once used for drinking, even for a brief period after the wreck, has now been deemed unusable and blocked off to ensure it does not seep into other reserves. The damaged nuclear reactor is still sealed off and contamination to the area persists.

2. Brio

The Brio Refinery located in Harris County, Texas, housed many chemical companies until the refinery went bankrupt in 1982. Since then, disavowed unprocessed petroleum, and other harmful materials, have been seeping into the land after the abandoned earthen pits that they were stored in leaked into the groundwater. This contamination negatively affected the neighboring towns and area as well. In fact, the impact of the toxic waste is said to have resulted in leukemia, birth defects and rare illnesses, so much so that in 1992, six of the chemical companies and a real estate developer agreed to pay for the college educations of 700 children residing in the affected area. Much of the Brio Refinery site has been demolished, however parts of the abandoned Southbend subdivision in Friendswood still remain unclaimed.

Because the Brio company walked away from the property without ensuring proper removal and disposal, environmental damage still occurs to this day. The EPA installed a barrier that reaches depths of 45 feet underground and is meant to contain the refinery’s abandoned contaminants. However, in 2010 these contaminants were found more than 50 feet below the refinery. As of today, the EPA has removed the Brio Refinery site from its national priorities list, but continues to observe it, demonstrating that the government does take on some of these sites, seemingly depending on the level of environmental and health impact.

3. Times Beach

In 1983, Times Beach, Mo., was completely evacuated due to high levels of dioxin. Prior to discovering dioxin was present, unexplained deaths and illnesses in the area caught the attention of the CDC. Upon testing soil and obtaining other samples, and discovering a shockingly high level of dioxin, the EPA also became involved. Over 800 families had to relocate and leave their lives behind; they also worried about long term health problems that might be consequences from the chemical exposure.

The level of dioxin in the land is said to be due to improper disposal of chemicals by the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company, which manufactured household items and products that contained antibacterial agent hexachlorophene in the 1960s. The manufacturer knew little about properly storing and disposing of the harmful chemicals. The dioxin that sat in the bottom of storage stills were taken to a storage facility near Frontenac, Mo., unloaded, and mixed into tanks containing used crankcase oils. This company was owned by Hoffman-Taff, the company that produced the Agent Orange herbicide used during the Vietnam War. This oil, owned by a different company that was later hired by Times Beach, was used to lubricate the roads. Times Beach were unaware of the contamination and did not know that it was mixed with dioxin until the 1980s.

Currently, the ghost town of Times Beach is gone. The land that once was this town has now been turned into the Route 66 State Park. Only one building from Times Beach remains, and it is the park’s visitor center; it used to be a roadhouse from the town’s glory days. The EPA revisited the park in 2012 to test the soil and it was found that the current dioxin levels have no significant harm on the park’s visitors, however there are some who still worry about the health and environmental effects of this ordeal.

There are other instances, just like the aforementioned, from all over the world. Although abandoned places are interesting and photographs of them can be eerily beautiful, we must consider the negative environmental impacts of abandoned sites.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


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Past Member about a year ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

So what can we do about them?

Sam Antha
Sam Antha4 years ago

Interesting thank you.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

It should be that any corporation must do a full chemical clean up or even tear down the facility to avoid such disasters. Many companies close locations solely out of logistics and greed. Buy out and close. The need to be held accountable for the building and chemicals/mess they are leaving behind.

M.N. J.
M.N. J4 years ago

I'm pretty sure just a few prison sentences of life without parole for the culpable CEOs could help clear up SO MANY of our problems.

You know, if criminal irresponsibility were treated as a crime.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B4 years ago

I'm sure there's many more than these. Everywhere people go will get polluted. Land, sea and air, we've even managed to pollute space!!

Patti Ruocco
Patti Ruocco4 years ago

What would you have them do to mitigate what Chernobyl is doing now?

Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle4 years ago

Repubs and convervatives tell us that they really are not issues. That plants and trees are more dangerous to us than hazardous waste sites. Which is why they dramatically reduced the amount of superfund sites.
As long as the wealthy elite run things we will continue to slog down the path of world destruction.

Deborah W.
Deborah W4 years ago

Took out the specific reference to ILLINOI (in paragraph 2 as I wasn't sure -- even though it sounded like business as usual. It's recently been featured as truth, so am putting it back in.)

My bet's on LEGAL ISSUES ... small towns, dependent on local businesses for survival, often forced to shut down due to additional, unrealistic rules and regulations, are forced to bail ... do you think for one minute they have time or money to shut down properly? It's not part of Big Brother's plan.

Vaguely remember another taxpayer drain on a "road to nowhere", ending in a huge hole, another unfinished "road improvement " plan ... where taxpayer dollars are still covering the property costs.

What about all those empty government buildings now abandoned (including a few new built and never used) -- properties that could be razed or resurrected for use ... easier to keep collecting tax on property isn't it. There are many such properties like this that affect our environment, well known and advertised. So, we already know the problem, now for solutions .
Bottom line, government doesn't give a crap, too busy searching for new and better ways to suck us dry while they continue to grow and their half-ass planning by inept developers remains in place.

This one's on us too ... watch what's happening, who's allowed it and VOTE to retain or replace. Make our ownership count.