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Call it gut instinct.

When big gusts of wind on Feb. 24 slammed the rusty silt of Gold Hill Mesa into the side of my hatchback, I reached down quickly and put the heater on recirculate, my fingers working nimbly as I barreled down U.S. Highway 24 eastbound.

All I could think was "arsenic."

The word rolls off the tongue with a hiss.

Gold Hill Mesa (see cover story) is a leftover of a mining industry that didn't bother to clean up after itself, leaving behind a massive, contaminated tailings pile. Now, developer Bob Willard is building houses on those tailings, an idea that has many shaking their heads in disbelief.

But Willard says he's no immoral opportunist.

In fact, he says, he's doing all of us a favor.

Willard didn't make the mess at Gold Hill, but under the guidance of the state, as the houses get built, the development is burying the problem permanently. He says there won't be any more dust storms, and once Gold Hill is finished, the tailings will no longer be a burden on the eyes or the environment.

Isn't this the best we could hope for?

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