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New Film Exposes Connection Between the Kochs and a Small Community Dying of Cancer

A new video from Brave New Foundation shows how people are paying the ultimate price for the Koch brothers' politics and profiteering.
 
 
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The many sins of the Koch brothers have been keeping Robert Greenwald and his crew at Brave New Foundation busy. Since January they've been working on their Koch Brothers Exposed video investigations, documenting the malfeasance of Koch Industries and the two-headed monster at the helm.

"What we've been doing with our 'Koch Brothers Exposed' project is connecting the dots: explaining the size and scope of what they're doing, which is really nothing short of trying to buy democracy," said Greenwald, the president of Brave New Foundation. (Full disclosure: Greenwald is on AlterNet's board of directors.) "What we've done with each of the Koch pieces is to use specific stories to depict people's lives and show that ideology has consequences. What the Kochs are doing is not harmless, it is not victimless, and there are people who are paying a terrible price for the brothers' politics and their profiteering."

BNF's most recent work, Exposed: Koch Industries and Cancer Risk, (which you can watch below) is a chilling demonstration of just how horrific a price people are forced to pay. The film is set in the town of Crossett, Arkansas and focuses on a community of residents on Penn Road. Among 15 families, there have been at least 11 deaths from cancer, and many more people are ill. The source of their anguish seems to be coming from a foul smelling canal of water, steaming with toxic pollutants, that runs through the woods near their homes.

If you were to follow the stench all the way upstream, one woman in the film explains, it leads to the town's only manufacturer and main employer: Georgia Pacific. A Koch Industries subsidiary, Georgia Pacific is a plywood, paper mill and formaldehyde resin plant that has been dumping millions of gallons of wastewater into open ditches. Even though the company's actions violate the Clean Water Act, the community of Penn Road continues to suffer.

A study done by USA Today identified schools in Crossett as in the first percentile nationwide for exposure to cancer-causing toxins.

Why? This time you just have to follow the stench of Koch money, which winds its way through the political system. BNF takes the story from Crossett across the U.S. where Koch Industries has a long history of environmental violations and millions of dollars in fines. "We spent months working on this to ensure we were making the larger point: This is what happens when people with too much money decide that they are going to make the system work for them and only them," said Greenwald.

While people all over the country are banding together in protest of the excessive greed of America's wealthiest and the power of corporations over public interest, BNF has found the very embodiment of this on Penn Road. "In a way it was all there in one small town where these people are being abused because of the money and the power," said Greenwald. "But this story is not the only one, that's what we have to understand."

  

There are long lists of Koch Industries' wrongdoings, including the recent epic article in Bloomberg Markets Magazine, but all that information can be hard to grasp until you listen to the residents of Penn Road describe what life is like for them. As Greenwald said, "This is not an academic argument" -- this is life and death. The cruel irony is that while Crossett residents mourn the loss of their family members and neighbors to cancer, David Koch -- a cancer survivor himself -- has donated hundreds of millions to cancer research.

Greenwald hopes that Exposed: Koch Industries and Cancer Risk will help bring this injustice to light and put Crossett on the map of our consciousness. "We hope that with this attention and pressure and people like you helping to spread the word, something will be done," he said. "That by shining a light on people dying and saying, this can't be, this can't happen, this must be stopped, there can be a variety of potential solutions, whether it be the EPA, whether it be a lawsuit, whether it be that Georgia Pacific decides it must do the right thing. Hopefully we can create enough attention so something will happen. We can spend months working on this but the change really happens from all of you -- the readers -- who can make the difference."

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet and editor of the new book Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.