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Old 06-22-2019, 12:22 AM
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Location: NE Ohio (the 'burbs)
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June 22, 1969: The Cuyahoga River catches fire in Cleveland, Ohio, drawing national attention to water pollution, and spurring the passing of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Cuyahoga River, at times during the 20th century, was one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. The reach from Akron to Cleveland was devoid of fish. At least 13 fires had been reported, the first occurring in 1868. The largest river fire in 1952 caused over $1 million in damage to boats, a bridge, and a riverfront office building.

On June 22, 1969, a river fire captured the attention of Time magazine, which described the Cuyahoga as the river that "oozes rather than flows" and in which a person "does not drown but decays". The 1969 fire caused approximately $50,000 in damage, mostly to an adjacent railroad bridge.

The fire helped spur an avalanche of water pollution control activities, resulting in the Clean Water Act, and the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the years since the fire, water quality has improved and, partially in recognition of this improvement, the Cuyahoga was designated one of 14 American Heritage Rivers in 1998.