front cover of Stringfellow Acid Pits
Stringfellow Acid Pits
The Toxic and Legal Legacy
Brian Craig
University of Michigan Press, 2020

Stringfellow Acid Pits tells the story of one of the most toxic places in the United States, and of an epic legal battle waged to clean up the site and hold those responsible accountable. In 1955, California officials approached rock quarry owner James Stringfellow about using his land in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, as a hazardous dump site. Officials claimed it was a natural waste disposal site because of the impermeable rocks that underlay the surface. They were gravely mistaken. Over 33 million gallons of industrial chemicals from more than a dozen of the nation’s most prominent companies poured into the site’s unlined ponds. In the 1960s and 1970s, heavy rains forced surges of chemical-laden water into Pyrite Creek and the nearby town of Glen Avon. Children played in the froth, making fake beards with the chemical foam. The liquid waste contaminated the groundwater, threatening the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of California residents. Penny Newman, a special education teacher and mother, led a grassroots army of  so-called “hysterical housewives” who demanded answers and fought to clean up the toxic dump.

The ensuing three-decade legal saga involved more than 1,000 lawyers, 4,000 plaintiffs, and nearly 200 defendants, and led to the longest civil trial in California history. The author unveils the environmental and legal history surrounding the Stringfellow Acid Pits through meticulous research based on personal interviews, court records, and EPA and other documents. The contamination at the Stringfellow site will linger for hundreds of years. The legal fight has had an equally indelible influence, shaping environmental law, toxic torts, appellate procedure, takings law, and insurance coverage, into the present day.


front cover of Toxic and Intoxicating Oil
Toxic and Intoxicating Oil
Discovery, Resistance, and Justice in Aotearoa New Zealand
Patricia Widener
Rutgers University Press, 2021
When oil and gas exploration was expanding across Aotearoa New Zealand, Patricia Widener was there interviewing affected residents and environmental and climate activists, and attending community meetings and anti-drilling rallies. Exploration was occurring on an unprecedented scale when oil disasters dwelled in recent memory, socioecological worries were high, campaigns for climate action were becoming global, and transitioning toward a low carbon society seemed possible. Yet unlike other communities who have experienced either an oil spill, or hydraulic fracturing, or offshore exploration, or climate fears, or disputes over unresolved Indigenous claims, New Zealanders were facing each one almost simultaneously. Collectively, these grievances created the foundation for an organized civil society to construct and then magnify a comprehensive critical oil narrative--in dialogue, practice, and aspiration. Community advocates and socioecological activists mobilized for their health and well-being, for their neighborhoods and beaches, for Planet Earth and Planet Ocean, and for terrestrial and aquatic species and ecosystems. They rallied against toxic, climate-altering pollution; the extraction of fossil fuels; a myriad of historic and contemporary inequities; and for local, just, and sustainable communities, ecologies, economies, and/or energy sources. In this allied ethnography, quotes are used extensively to convey the tenor of some of the country’s most passionate and committed people. By analyzing the intersections of a social movement and the political economy of oil, Widener reveals a nuanced story of oil resistance and promotion at a time when many anti-drilling activists believed themselves to be on the front lines of the industry’s inevitable decline.

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