This essay zooms in on an unloved stretch of Philadelphia’s tidal Schuylkill River, long home to the largest petroleum refinery on the United States’ East Coast, the cradle of petromodernity. In the aftermath of the refinery’s spectacular explosion in 2019, city officials were confronted by the data poverty in this sacrifice zone where many residents live in analog poverty. The essay contributes to our understanding of urban waters in two ways. First, it uncovers the shape and texture of the sacrifices made to dry out and urbanize wetlands, exploring how and by whom this former marshland has been made into what Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls a ‘forgotten place’. Second, it presents a set of interrelated community-based participatory research projects designed to document the inhabitants’ lived experiences—glaringly absent from existing environmental data collected across different levels of governance and largely missing from the historical record. The essay explores embodied research methods and storytelling as tools to build and sustain academic–community alliances.