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Vintage photos of Cuyahoga River on fire highlight why EPA exists

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Fifty years ago today, on June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga river in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire.

At the time, the river was one of the most polluted in the US. Journalists filled glasses with pitch-black river water, while politicians dipped cloth into the waves that came up oil-soaked.

The river fire lasted roughly 20 minutes, but it sparked public outrage that in part led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the federal office tasked with making sure “Americans have clean air, land, and water.”

Take a look at what the Cuyahoga River — and other waters around the US — looked like before the EPA existed.

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