Please join Peninsula College’s Magic of Cinema and the Sierra Club North Olympic Group on Friday, December 7th, at 7 p.m. in the Maier Performance Hall for a screening of What Lies Upstream.
In this documentary exposé, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to study the unprecedented loss of clean water for over 300,000 Americans.
In January 2014 West Virginia citizens notice that their tap water has a peculiar smell. It is discovered that a mysterious chemical, MCHM, has leaked into the Elk River, poisoning the drinking-water supply for nearly half of West Virginia. Hoback arrives at the state’s capital during the heart of the crisis, his interest piqued by his family ties to the state and a desire to understand why this contamination happened. But getting to the bottom of this seemingly simple question is about to lead him down a rabbit hole of an unimaginable scale.
Initially all the blame seems to be directed at Freedom Industries, the company that spilled MCHM, the chemical that traveled downstream before entering the water intake. But locals reveal that Freedom Industries is only one small facility in the area they call “The Chemical Valley.” While it’s obvious that Freedom Industries plays a key role in this contamination, it is equally obvious that their chemical tanks were allowed to completely erode over time without proper government oversight or inspection.
As Hoback continues his investigation, he meets West Virginia Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman, who serves as the head of the state’s Department of Environment Protection, which regulates all the industry in the state and handles all inspections. Huffman admits that Freedom Industries’ tanks hadn’t been inspected since 1993, but initially dismisses fears that MCHM is harmful. At the same time, Dr. Rahul Gupta, who runs the local health department, is the only official who seems concerned that the chemical might have negative long-term health effects. Yet, despite little scientific evidence, the CDC determines what amount of MCHM is safe for residents to drink.
Hoback continues to expand his study of drinking water in West Virginia to include outlying areas, where it quickly becomes clear that coal and chemical production have gone unchecked for decades. Virtually all the rivers and streams aren’t suitable drinking water sources.
Upon examination, he discovers a shocking failure of regulatory framework from both state and federal agencies and a wrecked political system. While he’s deep into his work in West Virginia, a similar water crisis strikes Flint, Michigan supporting the case that the entire system to protect drinking water in America is fundamentally broken.
The film also focuses on the 80,000 plus chemicals used in the US that enter our sewer streams, contaminate our water systems, and create runoff threatening our food and waters
The public knows very little about what chemicals are in the water supply and even less about the weak regulations and enforcement practices meant to protect it. Just because you don’t live in West Virginia or Flint doesn’t mean your water is safe.
This screening is free and open to the public. Following the film, there will be a speaker on WA State water pollution.
This screening is free and open to the public and will be followed by a discussion.
For more information contact Dr. Helen Lovejoy@ firstname.lastname@example.org.