2013 Finalist – Kate Fowler



‘Nitro’ is a multi-media project, about Nitro, West Virginia, a small boomtown that is nestled in the heart of Appalachia’s ‘Chemical Valley’. Formed, maintained and entirely reliant upon the chemical and rubber industries, this humble town embodies many of the environmental issues West Virginian’s currently face. Having housed a Monsanto Plant for over 70 years, residents of Nitro have simultaneously relied upon this company for economic stability, while battling the repercussions of the toxic chemicals it produced. Elevated cancer rates, high levels of Dioxin in local water ways and homes and rare auto-immune disorders have disrupted the lives of long term residents, and have rendered the fertile valley and river surrounding this region unusable.


Citizens of Nitro have filed two lawsuits against Monsanto in the past 25 years, one of which is still in progress today. In these lawsuits, the citizens report long-term illnesses, childhood jaundice and forms of cancer which are associated with Dioxin exposure. Bonnie and Mike Oldham, life-long residents of the town, are two of thousands of citizens participating in the class-action suit. Bonnie is currently battling a rare form of breast cancer, while her husband Mike is permanently disfigured due to the removal of a large tumor in the side of his face and neck.