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THE POLLUTION ALL-STARS

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And he'll take no fee from Robin LaRue, who has a citizen suit pending. LaRue is a 59-year-old artist from Kingman, and until recently, her pride was her goats, which swept the awards at the last Mohave County Fair--seven first places and one "Grand Champ of Show." But LaRue had to get rid of her goats; she might have to sell her land, too, if she can find a buyer. A wash that runs across her property has been flooded repeatedly with sewage and other run-off from a truck wash and a diner. Bouma says the Blue Beacon Truck Wash and the Petro Stopping Center along I-40 are among the busiest west of the Mississippi River. (Jim Vierrig, attorney for the defendants, declined to comment. However, Vierrig did confirm that during the Eighties, while working for then-attorney general Bob Corbin, he authored Arizona's citizen-suit statute.)

Bouma says of LaRue's lawsuit, "We haven't gone out and done one test by ourselves. . . . [The state's] records hang 'em."

The state has documented the pollution on LaRue's land, according to a DEQ inner-office memo dated January 1994. The memo explains that LaRue has complained for years about "the crud that creeps down the wash each winter from the two effluent discharges." It details findings during numerous visits to the wash. Sometimes the effluent was "very brown," the records show. Once, the main flow revealed "a thick layer of sewage sludge covered with algae."

On October 21, 1993, the state inspector noticed, "In the areas to the side of the main flow there were depressions filled with water and large numbers of brown particles which were suspended and not settled out. The brown particles are the sewage sludge floc particles that have been carried into the wash by the Petro Stopping Center wastewater treatment plant effluent. This is grossly improperly, partially treated sewage which is very high in harmful fecal coliform bacteria and may also carry any number of harmful or deadly viruses."

Although DEQ has tracked the pollution, the state has done nothing to force the truck wash and diner to clean up the land and stop polluting, Bouma alleges. So LaRue and Bouma have taken action to force DEQ to do its job.

After Bouma finished testifying, the committee had no follow-up questions for him. The panel voted to approve HB2196.

Speaking by phone from her home on a recent stormy evening, LaRue explains that the "slimy stuff" was running 30 feet from her home, and that during heavy rains, it had covered most of her 40 acres.

Asked about her view of Bowers, a fellow artist, LaRue says: "How long would this condition last in his backyard? I literally feel that I've been gone to the bathroom on.

"I want to be a small businessperson. I want to live the American dream. And here I am not able to have this business because of this potentially deadly water in my backyard. I'm a private property owner. I have rights, don't I?"

HB2196 squeaked through the House last week, and now moves on to the Senate.

It is not HB2196 alone that has landed Bowers in the Pollution All-Star lineup.

Two days after HB2117 died in a separate committee, Bowers and his committee resurrected a version of the bill, which guts the state Heritage Fund by forcing it to pay for operation and maintenance of properties acquired by the fund. HB2117 was attached to another bill that forces the Game and Fish Department to sell back land acquired with Heritage Fund monies once an endangered species has been "delisted." (Game and Fish officials testified that often, there's more than one species on the land, and further, that the species will likely become endangered again when the land is back in private hands.) The measure was defeated on the House floor, but could reemerge.

Bowers is also the sponsor of HB2274, which eliminates the mandate for an environmental education curriculum in Arizona's public schools and calls for schools that do wish to teach about the environment to use only the most "current scientific data"--whatever that is. It also requires that the curriculum review economic and political implications.

Representative Elaine Richardson, a Tucson Democrat, tried to convince Bowers that he was offering the bane of Nineties conservatives--a new mandate--on schools, but Bowers just laughed.

About a dozen people rose to speak--half for, half against--and Bowers asked nearly all of them whether they had children. Finally, one woman who had traveled from Tucson to speak against the bill pre-empted Bowers by announcing that she was unable to bear children.

Another tearful woman told the committee that she supported the bill because her son was suicidal after his teacher told his class the planet was endangered and wanted to know what the students were going to do to save it.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.