My Toxic Backyard - Documentary Review - GigSpotting.Net

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My Toxic Backyard - Documentary Review

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Asheville is a wonderful city nestled in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina.  Most everything about the town is either quaint or magnificent.  It does have a dirty side though.


Is your water safe?


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Everyone would assume their water is safe unless told otherwise.  If toxic chemicals were leeching into the groundwater near your home how soon would you expect be notified of it?  Days, weeks, months, years?   The dumping of toxic chemicals by a manufacturing plant in this community was known for years.  What wasn't known was how it was affecting the groundwater.   In this case,it took a decade or more before it was generally known by the residents and was recognized as a hazard.  It was not required to be disclosed in the buying and selling of property in the area.


When Emmy Award winning filmmaker Katie Damien returned from several years working aboard a cruise ship she wanted to settle down and buy a house in Asheville where her parents now live.   Homes in Asheville can be rather pricey.  She thought she had found a hidden treasure when she noticed a moderately priced home in a small community just outside Asheville.

Feeling that it was too good to be true she did some investigating of her own and found this little oasis of affordable homes to be more of a nightmare than the home place that she dreamed of.


The water is contaminated.


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The dirty little secret is that the water there is contaminated.  Toxic water.  It had been a secret to most for several years.

That's when Katie started documenting what was going on by interviewing the neighbors in the area and discovering the manufacturing plant that is believed to be the source of the contamination.  

Is the Environmental Protection Agency ready to step in and resolve the issue?

It appears the EPA does not have a lot of clout, or is it lack of concern, for the issue the residents in this area are facing.  Otherwise, why isn't more being done to clean up this mess?  Meeting after meeting with EPA  facilitators has gone on with almost no progress in the cleanup occurring.  Another decade has past since it was known by the residents that their groundwater contained a high level of carcinogens.

Though the water is shown to contain many hundreds and even thousands of times the amount of contamination the EPA allows in safe drinking water they seem powerless to do anything about it.  

Many people in this area have died of cancer or have had to undergo treatments for it.  Sometimes it is not noticeable in the water, but it's there.  Other times the smell and vapors from it are enough to make you cough when taking a shower. Inhalation and ingestion by water are the two main ways that a person can be exposed to the toxins.  Without having a doctor to show direct causality between the water and disease nothing can be done to prove it is the water that caused the disease.

There has been deception and cover-up in this case to try and keep it under wraps for many years, apparently for commercial reasons.  If the problem had been fixed 20-30 years ago it would have been much cheaper to fix it.


Will the residents of this community get any relief from this toxic water?


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Some progress is being made after years of EPA committee meeting, appeals to the state of North Carolina, and trips to Washington to argue on behalf of the landowners.  It can't come fast enough.  A plan to have many of the homes connected to city water has been made but is still awaiting approval.

This is a very good film though it's not pleasant to see what has happened to these people  and what they have had  to suffer with through polluted water, loss of family members,  and the fight to get someone to take responsibility for it.  It is a learning experience, and it never lost my attention throughout the film.

My Toxic Backyard  will soon be screened at various film festivals around the country and hopefully on your local PBS station.  Don't miss it!








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