POISONING FOR PROFIT: The Mafia and Toxic Waste in America by Alan A. & Frank R. Scarpitti Block

POISONING FOR PROFIT: The Mafia and Toxic Waste in America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

For the subtitle, read: illegal waste-dumping in New York and New Jersey--where Block and Scarpitti (professors respectively of criminal justice and sociology at the U. of Delaware) have had entree to the New York State Senate Select Committee on Crime. The picture they piece together--and extend to cover the rest of the country--is one of activities ""providing services that cannot be supplied as efficiently or as cheaply by legitimate enterprises."" Ironically, it is the very attempt to legislate toxic waste dumping at the national level, and chiefly the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, that has opened up the field to Mafia interests already active in the ""solid-waste"" (i.e., garbage and trash) hauling and disposal business. The authors set out both to trace the mazes of illicit connections stumbled on by a handful of alert cops and bureaucrats and to document the outright obstruction and harassment suffered by the whistle-blowers. Typical is the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regional counsel who was booted from his post after complaining about New York City's brazenly illegal dumping of toxic waste in its landfills, or the New Jersey police detective who discovered a copy of his own supposedly privileged affidavit on a developing case in the office of a ""notorious toxic waste dumper and organized crime figure."" The heart of the book--the trails of evidence leading from polluted dumps and rivers to known loan sharks, racketeers, and Genovese/Tieri or Gambino representatives--is somewhat choppy and confusing in organization, but the sheer impact of the material is undeniable. The real shockers here are the fields for fraud opened up by primitive record-keeping under the RCRA-mandated cargo manifest system: in the year preceding an appalling 1980 fire at a shut-down toxic waste treatment facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the contractor handling a supposed cleanup had actually brought many thousands of additional drums onto the site without any state agency noticing. There is a certain blurring of the line between organized crime and common illegality--but the authors have indeed documented the lunatic consequences of having up to 90 percent of the nation's hazardous wastes disposed of in circumvention of the law.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1985
Publisher: Morrow