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The Valley of the Drums, c 1980.
EPA photo.

The Valley of the Drums is a 23-acre toxic waste site in northern Bullitt County, Kentuckymarker, near Louisvillemarker, named after the waste-containing drum strewn across the area. It is known as one of the primary motivations for the passage of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or Superfund Act of 1980. While the widely publicized Love Canalmarker disaster is often credited as reason the Superfund law was passed, Love Canal activist Lois Gibbs has said that Love Canal looked like a suburban community, while "Valley of the Drums became the visualization of the problem."

The site became a collection point for toxic wastes starting sometime in the 1960s. It caught the attention of state officials when some of the drums caught fire and burned for more than a week in 1966. However, at that time there were no laws to address the storage or containment of toxic wastes, and the site continued to be unregulated for another decade.

In 1979 conditions at the site became so bad that the Environmental Protection Agency initiated an emergency clean-up of the worst of the leaking drums. Workers on the ground quickly realized that the scope of the problem was far beyond their abilities at the time, and after news of the problems there became public the site was used by members of Congress as one of the reasons the proposed Superfund law was needed.

Cleanup began at the site in 1983 and officially ended in 1990, although problems continued to be reported for many years. An environmental audit of the site in 2003 found PCBs in the sediment surrounding the area, and further testing was ordered.

In December, 2008, EPA inspectors found about four dozen rusted metal drums on land just outside the part of the dump that it capped and fenced in the 1980s, including a portion of Jefferson Memorial Forest. New cleanup work is being considered at the site as of December 15, 2008.

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