THIS VAST POLLUTION. . ."": United States of America v. Reserve Mining Company by Thomas F. Bastow

THIS VAST POLLUTION. . ."": United States of America v. Reserve Mining Company

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A behind-the-scenes look at a classic environmental confrontation, written by an attorney who worked on the US government's case. In 1955, the Reserve Mining Company, a subsidiary of Armco and Republic Steel, began processing taconite, a low-grade iron ore, and discharging a staggering 67,000 tons a day of tailings into Lake Superior near Duluth, Minnesota. Within a year, commercial fishermen were complaining of reduced catches and vast, cloudy stretches of water; 16 years later the federal government finally brought Reserve to court. The government's case was boosted by the discovery that Reserve's discharge contained asbestos, already linked to cancer in humans, and threatened Duluth's drinking water supplies. Symbolically, this was a crucial case, the biggest pollution control effort ever undertaken by Washington. Moreover, Superior was the last unpolluted Great Lake (once described as ""vividly blue and so transparent that the bottom, 100 feet down, seemed within reach of an oar""), and camped incongruously on its shore was a polluter of monumental proportions run from the board-rooms of industrial superpowers based in Ohio. Like most subsequent anti-pollution efforts, the Reserve case dragged on and on and satisfied no one. Bastow concentrates on the people involved in the unfolding of this pollution epic, from concerned citizens and environmentalists to politicians, scientists and lawyers on all sides to the maverick federal judge eventually removed from the case by his superiors in the appellate court. Corporate intransigence and bureaucratic timidity are singled out for especial opprobrium. An important case that merits study; unfortunately, Bastow lacks the writer's gift for bringing the personalities alive.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1986
Publisher: Green Fields (P.O. Box 8228, Washington, DC, 20024)