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Big Environmental Disasters

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Cuyahoga River. The northeast Ohio river, whose name means "crooked river" in the Iroquois language, first caught fire back in 1868. The largest river fire in 1952, shown here, caused over $1 million in damage. The river's oily surface combusted at least a dozen since then, until a June 1969, fire caught the attention of a reporter for Time Magazine. "Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases," the reporter wrote, "[the Cuyahoga] oozes rather than flows." The 1969 fire prompted a raft of environmental legislation, including the Clean Water Act.


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