June 22, 1969: Fire on the Cuyahoga River…Again

June 22, 1969:  The June 22, 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga is the “seminal” event in the history of water pollution control in America, helping to spur the growth of the environmental movement and the passage of national environmental legislation. “Never before had an image so thoroughly driven home the deteriorating plight of our nation’s waterways,” one environmental group explained on the fire’s thirtieth anniversary. “The burning river mobilized the nation and became a rallying point for passage of the Clean Water Act.”17 Despite its national importance as a symbol of environmental decline, the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga was a relatively minor story in Cleveland at the time.18 For northeast Ohio, and indeed for many industrialized areas, burning rivers were nothing new, and the 1969 fire was less severe than prior Cuyahoga conflagrations. It was a little fire on a long-polluted river already embarked on the road to recovery.

Reference: Adler, Jonathan H. “Fables of the Cuyahoga: Reconstructing a History of Environmental Protection.” Fordham Environmental Law Journal. 14 (2003): 89-146.

Commentary: There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948, and in 1952.

Commentary Update: In 2019, there have been several articles about how the Cuyahoga River has been dramatically cleaned up and is now considered an asset for the City of Cleveland. No doubt this is due in part to the 50thanniversary of the 1969 fire. Check out:  Cuyahoga Named River of the Year; Cleveland River Now a Hot Spot(groan).

Advertisements

1 thought on “June 22, 1969: Fire on the Cuyahoga River…Again

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s