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Arsenic, cadmium, lead, beryllium: industrial byproducts so toxic it is illegal to dump them into the air or water. Yet, through a loophole in "the crazy semantics of waste disposal," these same hazardous wastes are being applied to the food we eat. And until a small-town mayor from a farming community in Washington State became suspicious, nobody knew. Mayor Patty Martin is a whistleblower as extraordinary as Karen Silkwood and Erin Brockovich--smart, persistent, courageous, and overwhelmingly dedicated to her cause even when the town that elected her turned against her. Martin's obsession with hazardous waste in fertilizer began when she met Dennis DeYoung, a local farmer whose land was rendered infertile after the Cenex/Land O'Lakes company paid him to spread the residue from their fertilizer rinse pond on his land. But there was more than fertilizer residue there--it was a witches' brew of hazardous metals, cancer-causing chemicals, and even radioactive materials that hadn't been produced by the company itself. DeYoung and Martin wanted to know how they got there and why.
Duff Wilson, an investigative journalist for the Seattle Times, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his series "Fear in the Fields--How Hazardous Wastes Become Fertilizer," which formed the basis of this book. While the articles prompted a modicum of action in Washington State and elsewhere, complacency allows the practice to continue even now. Expanded into book form, this impassioned exposé about an alarming trend takes on even more power as Wilson and Martin ask questions the EPA has been unwilling to answer: Why should there be a limit on the amount of lead in paint and dioxin in cement but not in the fertilizer spread over farmlands and gardens? And is there a correlation between the widespread use of toxins in fertilizers and the phenomenal rise in childhood illnesses and cancers since the early 1980s? --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In this alarming, real-life version of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, Patty Martin, a housewife, mother of four and mayor of the small farming town of Quincy, Wash., began to notice a pattern of failing crops, infertile topsoil and rare diseases in her community in the early 1990s. When she asked tough questions about the pattern, she received evasions and resistance from some local businesses and farmers, which only made her dig deeper. Martin found that a product manufactured with sludge from a waste pond in town, sold as fertilizer and spread on local farms, stunted crops, destroyed quality topsoil and left high concentrations of such heavy metals as cadmium, chromium and beryllium not usually present in fertilizers. As Martin pursued links between fertilizers, hazardous waste and public health risks, she, like Ibsen's protagonist, became increasingly unpopular in the town she was trying to protect. Growing beyond the conflict in Quincy, Wilson's investigation (which led to a 1997 series of articles that were nominated for Pulitzer Prize consideration) revealed that under prevailing state and federal laws, polluting industries throughout the U.S. saved millions of dollars by sending hazardous waste to fertilizer makers who in turn recycled the toxic chemicals into a product sold to farmers and consumers without disclosing what was in it. In the resulting outcry, Washington State became the first to insist that fertilizer companies provide detailed chemical analyses of their products. Wilson's copious reporting and Patty Wilson's example make a convincing case for a national policy on hazardous materials recycling. Agent, Elizabeth Wales. (Sept. 13) Forecast: This lucid presentation of the facts will stir the passions of readers already concerned about environmental issues, but those accustomed to more gut-wrenching accounts of similar transgressions, like A Civil Action and the film Erin Brockovich, won't be drawn in as easily.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Based on a series of articles in the Seattle Times, this is a timely and chilling look at the way corporate polluters evade government toxic-waste laws and how waste from steel mills, power plants, and chemical companies is magically transformed into fertilizer and plant food by the simple act of relabeling. Seattle Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize nominee Wilson describes how toxic waste from a farm chemical store in Quincy, WA, was drained from a waste lagoon and palmed off as fertilizer to a farmer in debt to the store. When crops withered, horses died, and people became sick, the mayor of Quincy led a crusade to expose this repackaging of industrial waste. Wilson documents the collusion of corporations and government officials who allow the land to be despoiled and our food poisoned. This gripping read is highly recommended for all libraries with current events collections. Duncan Stewart, State Historical Society of Iowa Lib., Iowa City
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
After farmers around the small rural community of Quincy, Washington, started complaining about sick livestock and poor crops, town mayor Patty Martin became concerned. She led an investigation that discovered that the fertilizers the farmers were using were actually "recycled" toxic wastes laden with dangerous chemicals and heavy metals. Wilson, an investigative reporter with the Seattle Times, took up Martin's cause and found that the practice of converting hazardous waste into fertilizer is increasingly widespread. In compelling fashion, he reports on Martin's sometimes quixotic campaign, which divided the community when some farmers and chemical plant workers became concerned that their livelihoods might be in jeopardy. Martin is still unwaveringly awaiting vindication. Although Monsanto has ceased recycling its wastes into fertilizer, others continue. There is no proof yet that these fertilizers are the direct cause of health problems and the practice of converting waste into such products is not illegal. At the very least, though, argue Martin and Wilson, companies should be required to disclose the ingredients that go into fertilizer products, and extensive testing on their effects should be conducted. Wilson's very important account certainly uncovers food for thought. Literally! David Rouse
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Duff Wilson is a reporter at the Seattle Times. His work has been awarded a Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He lives near Seattle with his wife and two children.
I see soil in a new light, and I wonder about my own lawn and garden. What have I sprinkled on my backyard? Is somebody using my home, my food, to recycle toxic waste? It seems unbelievable, outlandish -- but what if it's true?
A riveting exposÉ, Fateful Harvest tells the story of Patty Martin -- the mayor of a small Washington town called Quincy -- who discovers American industries are dumping toxic waste into farmers' fields and home gardens by labeling it "fertilizer." She becomes outraged at the failed crops, sick horses, and rare diseases in her town, as well as the threats to her children's health. Yet, when she blows the whistle on a nationwide problem, Patty Martin is nearly run out of town.
Duff Wilson, whose Seattle Times series on this story was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, provides the definitive account of a new and alarming environmental scandal. Fateful Harvest is a gripping study of corruption and courage, of recklessness and reckoning. It is a story that speaks to the greatest fears -- and ultimate hope -- in us all.
A great read -- mindblowing true story, September 5, 2001
Reviewer: William Matthews (Seattle, Washington United States) - See all my reviews
Don Delillo could not have imagined this. I was more blown away by 'Fateful Harvest' than by 'A Civil Action' or 'Erin Brockovich'. Those earlier works were isolated cases of industry abuse, while this book exposes a real-life toxic waste scandal focused ultimately on the food eaten by billions. What's most scary is that the scandal is still going on! -- toxic waste is turned into fertilizer, and spread on the food supply; but the politicians shrug while lives are destroyed. Wilson, an experienced investigative reporter, does a great job of distilling the science (and the politics) behind the news story. He effectively weaves the life of an unlikely small-town heroine into the larger perspective. It's definitely a compelling and accessible read. I did it in a day and a half.
Great read -- A mindblowing story, September 5, 2001
Reviewer: William Matthews (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
Don Delillo could not have imagined this. I was more blown away by 'Fateful Harvest' than by 'A Civil Action' or 'Erin Brockovich'. Those earlier works also had sympathetic protagonists, but were isolated cases of industry abuse, while this book exposes a real-life toxic waste scandal focused ultimately on the food eaten by us all. What's most scary to me is that the scandal is still going on! -- toxic waste is called "fertilizer," then dumped on farm land; but the politicians shrug while lives are destroyed. Wilson, an experienced investigative reporter, does a great job of distilling the science (and the politics) behind the news story. He effectively weaves the crucial discoveries of an unlikely rural heroine into the larger perspective. Believe it or not, there's even humor in the absurdity. It's definitely a compelling and accessible read. I did it in a day and a half. I expect a lot of people will be talking about this one.
Excellent book and about time, May 9, 2003
Reviewer: A reader (Glendale, Arizona United States)
When this book talks about how the effects of heavy metals are not seen right away, I know this to be very true. Look at the autism epidemic and look at the amount of heavy metals that are in these autistic children. They don't just have too much mercury, they also are showing excessive levels of lead, arsenic, antimony, aluminum, etc. So is this how the effects of hazardous waste in fertilizer are showing up?
POWERFUL!, May 27, 2002
Reviewer: Barbara "oldgardens" (Midwest Farm Belt) - See all my reviews
It is simple. Read the book. Decide if you want to eat your food with some toxic fertilizer sprinkled on by corporate-terrorists. Do your research and then decide what you are going to do about this horrendous insult to all life and the land around the world. This issue leaves me mourning for our world. Thankfully there are still dedicated people like Duff Wilson that uncover the scoundrels that have no conscience except for the dollar. Rachael Carson blew the whistle on DDT and now Mr. Wilson is blowing the whistle on toxic waste fertilizers unwittingly being used by farmers and gardeners everywhere. Wake up EPA!