'Company Town' documents egregious toxic pollution
- Written by Diane Carson
Director Natalie Kottke-Masocco's eco-documentary "Company Town" details an egregious case of toxic pollution and deaths resulting therefrom. In Crossett, Arkansas, forestry capital of the South, Koch Industries owns and runs a Georgia-Pacific paper plant where most of the town's 5507 residents work--or worked, before cancer started taking a toll.
A ten-year employee of the mill, Baptist minister David Bouie cites convincing statistics, among them that on Penn Road, where he lives, eleven of fifteen households suffered deaths from multiple cancers. Bouie spearheads the residents' entreaties to the EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) to come see the polluted open ditches, Coffee Creek, Mossy Lake and the Ouachita River impacted yearly by 1.5 million pounds of toxic emissions.
In support of the citizens, we hear from Van Jones who was President Obama's environmental advisor, representatives from the Environmental Working Group, Citizens for Environmental Justice Research, scientists and chemists who weigh in with alarming evidence with helpful animation clarifying details. Of note, formaldehyde, dioxin, benzene, hydrogen sulfide and other known carcinogenic agents are found among the sixty chemicals in tested water and seventy-four different chemicals released into the air.
And yet, for all their letters, calls and invitations to regional and national EPAs, Crossett's citizens receive bureaucratic doublespeak and assertions that nothing is amiss and no further testing warranted. A whistleblower comes forward reporting that Georgia-Pacific employees were told to clean up before inspections. Another brave employee reports where he dumped chemicals on his own land. For his efforts and paying to dig them up, Georgia-Pacific files federal charges against him.
The story director/co-producer Kottke-Masocco documents here from 2011 to 2017 is related by those involved, except for Charles and David Koch who declined all interviews, apparently letting their (2008) $20 million for lobbying speak for them. "Company Town" screens at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium Friday, January 26 through Sunday, January 28 at 7:30 each evening. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or on the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.