LEADVILLE: The Struggle to Save an American Town
Gillian Klucas, . . Island /Shearwate, $26 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-55963-385-7
A place where the river ran red with dissolved heavy metals and children played on mountainous waste rock piles, the mining town of Leadville, Colo., was one of the most polluted locales in America. This excellent narrative chronicles the decades-long battle to clean up the town and to redefine it after the collapse of the mining industry. Journalist Klucas, who now lives in Leadville, delves into the shifting motives and strategies of a surprisingly complicated cast of characters, including the determined but often high-handed Environmental Protection Agency; the large corporations and small landowners who wrangled in court over liability for the clean-up costs; the townspeople, some of whom opposed the federally imposed cleanup as an insult to the Superfund site they proudly called home; and the preservationists who defined the town's slag heaps as a legacy and tourist attraction with which to reinvent the place as a frontier mining theme park. Klucas accomplishes the almost impossible task of making thickets of environmental science, politics and litigation come alive, offering both a pointed critique of a badly drafted Superfund law—which some feel encourages lawsuits more than cleanups—and insights into other approaches. With evenhanded sympathy for all parties as they groped their way forward from intransigence to cooperation, she presents a fascinating inside look at one of the most heated environmental issues of the day.
Reviewed on: 09/20/2004