Koch Industries plant linked to cancer epidemic in Arkansas community (video)

Crossposted from Facing South. A new video from Brave New Films is drawing attention to an unusual number of cancer cases and other serious health problems in an Arkansas community next to an industrial facility owned by Koch Industries. The Kansas-based oil and chemical conglomerate is owned by the billionaire Koch brothers, who've spent millions of their fortune fighting environmental regulation.

The plant in question is a Georgia-Pacific mill in Crossett, Ark. that produces bleached paperboard products. Koch Industries acquired Georgia-Pacific in 2005.

According to the facility's latest toxics release inventory from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Crossett plant released over 913,000 pounds of toxic chemicals to the air in 2010 and another 136,000 pounds to nearby waterways, and buried over 444,000 pounds in the soil to degrade.

Among the chemicals that the plant emits to the air and water are known carcinogens such as formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as well as probable carcinogens including acetaldehyde and lead. In fact, the Crossett plant is the 39th-biggest air emitter of formaldehyde in the U.S., while a USA Today study ranked Crossett in the top percentile of communities for schoolchildren's exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

The Brave New Films video documents how residents of Penn Road in West Crossett, an African-American community close to the plant, are suffering from a host of respiratory problems and cancers that they link to pollution from the facility. The video is part of the group's Koch Brothers Exposed series, which earlier this year looked at the Kochs' role in a battle over school resegregation in Wake County, N.C. (I was among the reporters interviewed in that video.)

Brave New Films partnered on the latest video with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, as the plant in question sits along the Ouachita River that flows from Arkansas into Louisiana. The groups are hoping to bring awareness to what's happening in Crossett and are calling for an investigation by the EPA and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

"Something is wrong on this street, Penn Road, where I live," David Bouie, a pastor and reserve deputy sheriff, says as the video opens. "Something is wrong here in this community."

Watch the full video here:

Sue Sturgis is an investigative reporter and editorial director of Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies.