Cover image for Leadville : the struggle to revive an American town
Leadville : the struggle to revive an American town
Klucas, Gillian.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Island Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
304 pages : map. ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TD195.M5 K58 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Leadville explores the clash between a small mining town high up in Colorado's Rocky Mountains and the federal government, determined to clean up the toxic mess left from a hundred years of mining. Set amidst the historic streets and buildings reflecting the town's past glory as one of the richest nineteenth-century mining districts in North America-a history populated with characters such as Meyer Guggenheim and the Titanic's unsinkable Molly Brown-the Leadville Gillian Klucas portrays became a battleground in the 1980s and 1990s. The tale begins one morning in 1983 when a flood of toxic mining waste washes past the Smith Ranch and down the headwaters of the Arkansas River. The event presages a Superfund cleanup campaign that draws national attention, sparks local protest, and triggers the intervention of an antagonistic state representative. Just as the Environmental Protection Agency comes to town telling the community that their celebrated mining heritage is a public health and environmental hazard, the mining industry abandons Leadville, throwing the town into economic chaos. Klucas unveils the events that resulted from this volatile formula and the remarkable turnaround that

Author Notes

Gillian Klucas, a talented journalist who has written for High Country News, On Earth, Preservation, and other magazines, became so intrigued by Leadville's multifaceted story that she moved there. This is her first book.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The Rocky Mountain town of Leadville, Colorado, once home to Guggenheims and Rockefellers, was built atop mining waste spanning 16\xba square miles. In early 1983, a toxic flood flowed from the mines down the Arkansas River to the ranchlands below. One rancher, long affected by mining poisons, alerted various government agencies and news media, triggering a decades-long battle between the mining companies, the EPA, and Leadville citizens. Leadville became an official Superfund site, ranked as one of the most polluted spots in the nation. As the EPA began to assess the land, and the CDC the public's heath, citizens bristled. Resenting the implication that the community was diseased, and fearful of losing its mining heritage, the town did everything it could to block the government outsiders. Then the mines, finally exhausted, closed. This economic catastrophe eventually helped the community revise its identity and agree to work with the EPA. Klucas has assembled a complex, rich history spanning the town's beginnings, decades of contentious debate, and Leadville's incredible turnabout. --Rebecca Maksel Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Klucas is a journalist whose studies and residence in Leadville, CO, has provided this insightful if tendentious account of modern environmental protection and historic restoration in a classic western American mining town. Well written in narrative style, the story involves the personal experiences of miners, townspeople, ranchers, and officials of state and federal government agencies during an emblematic struggle through the thickets of environmental science, litigation, and politics. It is an explanatory chronicle of Leadville's mining boom years, the social impact of the mining operations, the US Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund site cleanup activity, and the local population's concerted efforts to maintain Leadville's character as a mining town. In readily readable journalistic style, the book is directed to all who are involved or interested in environmental issues. A lack of illustrations and a minimal bibliography limit the book's resource value, but there is a useful index that includes names and acronyms of many environmental agencies and programs. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. Libraries with history, political science, and economics collections on the American West, or those serving students in mining engineering and environmental studies. W. C. Peters emeritus, University of Arizona