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During the 1960s, a 23-acre expanse in northern Bullitt County, Kentucky, just outside Louisville, became a disposal ground for toxic waste. The chemical waste came in metal drums that were either discharged directly into open pits and trenches, or buried wholly underground. Some sat on the ground for years until the drums deteriorated and broke open, spilling its hazardous content which got carried away by storm water runoff into the nearby Wilson Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River. It contained toxic chemicals such as benzene, toluene and methylmethacrylate.

Adjacent property owners frequently complained of strong odors, but in those days dumpsites were common and there were no laws regarding proper storage or containment of toxic waste. The site went unnoticed for years, until it caught fire in 1966 and raged for a week. The incident caught the attention of state officials, but the lack of environmental regulations allowed the site to continue operation until 1977.

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Valley of the Drums, as it appeared in 1979. Photo credit: The Courier-Journal

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