Every spring, thousands of beautiful swans fly to the spectacular Coeur d’Alene River in Idaho in their annual migration.
In the wetlands of the lower river, they feast on its verdant plants. Their arrival in this sacred Native American homeland is one of the marvels of nature and draws ornithologists from all over the world.
But some of these birds never make it out of the marshes again because their feeding grounds have been poisoned by pollution from a huge lead smelting plant.
Observers report the pitiful sight of poisoned birds gasping for breath and too weak to take flight.
At least 150 carcasses are found in the wetlands each year. And it is not only animals that are paying a heavy price for the fallout from the industry which has blighted this rural location.
Local children have also suffered acute respiratory health problems as a result of what is now regarded as one of the worst industrial pollution scandals in America.
Ask people who they blame for the problem, and you will be pointed to one man. David Rowland is not well-known, but he is the man David Cameron appointed this month as Tory Party Treasurer.
He takes up the post in October.
Though he was not involved with the company at the time the pollution occurred, residents in Idaho claim that after Rowland bought the firm which owned the smelting plant, he deprived the environmental clean-up operation in their area of vital funds, and thereby prolonged the suffering of their community.
Indeed, Rowland has been accused of ‘looting’ tens of millions of dollars that should have been destined for the clean-up operation by diverting funds into a property deal in New Zealand.
The pollution was caused by a smelting factory at Bunker Hill which for six decades spewed contaminated smoke into the air, poisoning surrounding communities, and causing serious damage to the health of hundreds of children.
Eventually the smelter was closed down, and it was eight years later that David Rowland acquired Gulf Resources (the firm which owned the plant) and subsequently became president and chief executive.
At that point, he became responsible for the massive clean-up operation ordered by the American authorities, and expected to cost $100 million.
Despite this, in the years that followed Rowland was accused of transferring the company’s assets overseas and depriving former employees of their rightful pension and health insurance entitlements, of which more later