To the Editor:
I have just finished reading a very disturbing book. It is a true story about how American industries get rid of their toxic waste by dumping it into farmers’ and gardeners’ fields, selling it as fertilizer. The thing that makes it so pertinent to us is that this expose took place right under our noses, in the Columbia River Basin in Washington. A mayor of the small town called Quincy discovered that small farms were having failed crops, sick horses, and there were rare diseases in her town, children were sickly, testing high contents of lead, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, aluminum, mercury and uranium in their hair. There was a fertilizer plant in town, and children were walking past the plant through the dust on their way to school. Because the plant was a main industry in town, and farmers sold beans, corn, potatoes and wheat, and because they were afraid of losing sales, the mayor was nearly driven out town.
A reporter from the Seattle Times became interested in the cause and carried out an extensive investigation, taking three years to do so. He interviewed over 300 people and read more than 50,000 pages of documents ending up with a comprehensive report in the Seattle Times. Condensed versions of the report were published more or less nationwide, but because getting rid of hazardous waste is a global industry, and because every industry is involved, very little action was taken, so the story died a slow death.
Recycling hazardous industrial waste through fertilizer is legal in the U.S. and Canada. Credit has to be given to Canada for having stricter regulations as to the amount of these wastes put into the fertilizer, but nevertheless the heavy metals and toxic wastes are there. The manufacturers of fertilizers do not have to list all the contents in their product. One of the excuses is that the label would have to be too big, but the ingredients are all listed on their websites, so farmers should check to know what they are putting into their soil.
To emphasize how close to home this issue is, I talked to an employee of Cominco who stated that for whatever reason, fertilizer sales dropped in the recent past, so Cominco was running out of space to store their hazardous waste, but then sales improved and they started making fertilizer again, so everything is back to norm. The fertilizer is mixed in Warfield, and the mix is very concentrated, so the next process is it is shipped to Saskatchewan where it is diluted with some other product; he did not know what.
So we can see how important it is for us in this valley to promote and support our Creston Valley Food Action Coalition and eat food grown locally by our responsible local farmers.
The name of the book is Fateful Harvest by Duff Wilson. If anyone wants to borrow the book, my phone number is 250-428-7097. Kingfisher Used Books can get you a copy; they are getting me another one, and our local library is also looking into getting the book.