I had a couple of hours the other day so I decided to watch a Frontline documentary called Poisoned Waters. As the name suggests it’s about water pollution and the consequences of that pollution focusing on a couple of different areas in the US. I’ve never written a movie review so hopefully this will give you a good idea of what the movie is about without giving away too much information.
The documentary starts out in the Chesapeake Bay area with the host talking to local fisherman about how things have changed over the years. They give some startling statistics about the drop in catches over the past 25 years, and how many people have had to go out of business because there just isn’t enough to catch anymore. So why have the numbers dropped?
Because of farming, specifically animal farming. We are shown images of huge factory farms holding tens of thousands of chickens and the huge piles of waste behind each one. Nitrates and phosphorous from the animal waste wash into the closest stream or river, and then flow into the bay causing algae blooms. At certain points in the year up to 40% of the bay can be covered by algae, or what are called dead zones since nothing can survive there.
From here the program takes a step back and gives some history of the Clean Water Act; how it was started, the politics behind it, problems it has had over the years, and successes it has had. It also talked about the first Earth Day in 1970 when 20 million people out to the streets to demonstrate for clean water, clean air, environmental restrictions, etc. That part really made me wonder; why can’t we get people motivated like that today?
Next we look at the Potomac River and why animals are dying and being mutated. We again are shown startling images of fish die-offs where hundreds of fish suddenly die, and pictures of frogs with six legs. Male fish and frogs in the Potomac are also being found with eggs instead of testicles, and vice versa. This is caused by endocrine disrupters which are found in almost everything; cleaners, lubricants, fertilizers, etc.
Now we move across the country and talk about the Puget Sound and the Duwamish River that drains into the sound. Orca whales frequent the sound, and scientists are studying why so many, especially the younger whales, are dying. They found that the answer is PCB’s which were banned 40 years ago, but up until that time was used widely in the area (and all over the US). This leads us to the Duwamish River with runs right through Seattle’s industrial hub and right into the Sound. For years industries used PCBs and dumped everything it had to get rid of into the Duwamish. Now, there is a campaign to clean up the area, but the pollution is so widespread, and no one wants to pay to clean it up, so the cleanup is moving very slowly.
We then switch topics to the number one menace to waterways according to scientists. It turns out it’s storm water runoff. They make some very interesting points about how the way that we build our towns and cities are leading to the pollution of our waterways due to all of the impervious materials that we use. We basically funnel all of the storm water, along with all the oil, chemicals, and garbage it picks up along the way, into our waterways and pollute them. I don’t remember the exact statistic they gave, but it was something along the lines of the same amount of oil spilt in the Exxon-Valdez spill drains into the Sound every two years. That’s just appalling!
This got a little longer than planned so I’ll wrap it up here. When I watch a documentary one of the things that I always pay attention to is how balanced the views are. I was happy to see that for pretty much every topic that was covered you were given both sides of the story. They also did a great job of showing how everything is connected, and how even though you might not be seeing the pollution it can and will still have an impact on you.
Overall I really enjoyed Poisoned Waters and strongly recommend it to anyone interested in water pollution issues. There’s a lot more startling information in this documentary that I couldn’t fit in here so if you liked what you read you should check it out. Right now you can find it on Netflix and you can also watch it here www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poisonedwaters/view/ (on the PBS website it’s broken up into chapters so you can watch it little by little or all at once).
I’ll leave you with this: they ask the question a number of times in the movie but by the end you really start to think…what is all this pollution doing to us? The scary thing is we don’t know.
Thanks for reading and please leave a comment (you dont have to sign in anymore!) and let me know what you thought of this review.