Pics Of The Day: The Toxic Landscapes Of American Life Before The EPA

There was a time when there was strong bipartisan support for the EPA.

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The Environmental Protection Agency has become a hotbed of controversy since President Trump took office.

From a budget proposal from the White House that sharply slashes the EPA’s budget to calls from a Republican congressman to axe the agency all together — negative pressure has been mounting from multiple sides.

Photo: National Archives and Records AdministrationPhoto: National Archives and Records Administration

Today, many see the EPA as a prime example of regulation gone amok — or an agency that hampers business with stringent rules that are criticized for either being unnecessary or ineffective.

There was a time, however, when there was strong bipartisan support for the EPA. And in those days, the case for why America’s environmental landscape needs to be protected was, in many ways, more visible.

Children play in yard of Ruston Home, while Tacoma smelter stack showers area with arsenic and lead residue in 1972. Photo: Gene Daniels, NARAChildren play in yard of Ruston Home, while Tacoma smelter stack showers area with arsenic and lead residue in 1972. Photo: Gene Daniels, NARA

To illustrate the point, then-President Richard Nixon commissioned a photography-based project called “Project Documerica” right after signing the 1970 executive order that created the EPA.

The project pulled together a range of photographers with a mission to show the various types of pollution persisting in America along with images of everyday life. All told, 100 photographers participated in the project, snapping more than 81,000 shots of polluted waterways, toxic emissions and smog hovering over populated areas.

Here’s a look at some of the photographs, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Photo: NARAPhoto: NARA Photo: NARAPhoto: NARA Photo: NARAPhoto: NARA Photo: NARAPhoto: NARA An oil slick around NYC. Photo: NARAAn oil slick around NYC. Photo: NARA Trash and old tires litter the shores at the Middle Branch of Baltimore Harbor in Maryland in 1973. Photo: Jim Pickerell, NARATrash and old tires litter the shores at the Middle Branch of Baltimore Harbor in Maryland in 1973. Photo: Jim Pickerell, NARA
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