FATEFUL HARVEST: The True Story of a Small Town, a Global Industry, and a Toxic Secret
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.