WASHINGTON -- David Bouie, a 64-year-old resident of Crossett, Ark., says something isn't right on Penn Road. In the 15 homes on his street, 11 people have recently died of cancer. The casualties include George Parker and his wife, Ollie Parker, as well as Bobbie Sue Gibbs and her neighbor Tom Perkins, both of whom passed away with multiple cancers. Dolores Wimberly, a former neighborhood resident, says her daughter Laetitia, a nonsmoker, died of lung cancer at 43; and Penn Road resident Norma Thompson says her husband died of lung cancer, while she continues to have breathing problems, often relying on a respirator.
THE SOURCE OF THEIR LIVELIHOODS
The city of Crossett, a largely poor, minority neighborhood, has one of the highest rates of exposure to cancer-causing toxins in the nation. USA Today reports that the Alpha Alternative School District in Crossett ranks in the top percentile nationally for exposure to probable human carcinogens, with the Georgia-Pacific plant listed as the polluter most responsible for the toxins.
The film says that many residents have been reluctant to speak out about the situation, in part because Georgia-Pacific, if the source of their ailments, is also the source of their livelihoods. Of the roughly 6,000 residents of Crossett, a full 2,200 work for the Koch Industries-owned subsidiary. And with the per capita income at just $18,288 and 16.8 percent of the population living below the poverty line, most residents desperately need the money.
"Everyone in the city calls it 'the crud,'" said David Bouie in an interview with The Huffington Post.
"When you mention 'the crud,' everybody knows it's the crud that's coming from the mill that causes people to get sick."
Behind closed doors, Crossett doctors will acknowledge their patients are suffering adverse consequences from air and water pollution, David Bouie told HuffPost. But when Bouie asked them to put that in writing, the doctors refused.
In an industry-run town, Kottke explained, people are ostracized for speaking out. They are watched and followed. "Georgia-Pacific security will stroll down the street -- something I saw first hand when I was there," said Kottke. Of the silencing effect she added, "I think it's fear, that's what I gathered. When I was behind closed doors, it was pretty profound how open they were. It's at a point where they're ready to talk."