June 22, 2019

YELLING “FIRE” IN A CROWDED RIVER: The Cuyahoga Story at 50.

By 1969 local efforts to improve water quality in Cleveland were starting to make headway but were ironically impeded by bureaucratic red tape. As [Jonathan Adler, law professor at Case Western Reserve University] explained:

Cleveland had embarked on a long and costly cleanup effort before the Cuyahoga became a national symbol. Subsequent federal efforts received more attention – and far more credit– but it appears the tide was turning well before Congress enacted the 1972 Clean Water Act. One problem Cleveland faced was that the Cuyahoga was treated as an industrial stream, and state permits inhibited local clean up efforts. Public nuisance actions and enforcement of local pollution ordinances, in particular, were precluded by state regulation, while federal laws protecting commercially navigable waterways went largely unenforced.”

On this day in 2004, Adler noted that “The 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga was a relatively minor story in Cleveland at the time. Although reportedly intense, the fire lasted less than 30 minutes. It was so quick that the flames were out before local photographers arrived. All the local papers could show was a fireboat spraying down a railroad trestle after the fire was under control. Time magazine ran a striking photo of the river ablaze–no doubt the photograph Carol Browner remembers–but this picture was not of the June 1969 fire. It was an old photo of an earlier, more serious, fire from 1952,” as Time eventually confirmed.

InstaPundit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.