Atrazine has one of those menacing monikers suffered by most obscure chemicals. That, in truth, it's a completely safe and plainly essential herbicide used by most Illinois farmers to grow crops more cost-effectively won't make it sound any tastier to a Madison County jury.
That's what Belleville lawyer Steve Tillery and the creative litigation minds at Texas-based toxic tort law firm Baron & Budd were figuring, no doubt, when they cast atrazine the central character in their latest class action crusade.
Their issue-- run-off of the weed killer from farmers' fields showing up in your drinking water. We know it sounds scary. And while state and federal environmental regulators have done countless studies and insist we shouldn't worry, that atrazine is harmless, that doesn't mean we cannot.
When he approached them to serve as the lead plaintiff in his atrazine lawsuit, Tillery explained as much to leaders of the Holiday Shores Sanitary District (HSSD), which provides water for a Madison County community of 4,000.
HSSD was sore because it had to spend a few hundred grand on water filtering equipment a decade ago, to comply with state rules. Tillery's promise --help me blame that cost on the agribusiness giants who make atrazine, and I'll help you get that money back.
And more. There's always more. Tillery & Co. don't get out of bed for just a few hundred grand.
Atrazine is the latest enviro-shakedown manufactured by anti-business activists at the trial lawyer-funded, Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group. These are the folks who gave us the alar scare, proclaiming in 1989 that apples cause cancer.
The method in such madness, of course, manifests itself in places like Edwardsville, where multi-billion dollar companies like Dow Chemical and Sygenta eventually pay the lawyers to go away, averting a costly hysteria.
As for the pawns in this fight-- the plaintiffs at the HSSD, they might get theirs, if eventually. Or not. But like Sharon Price, we hope they enjoy the publicity.