Documentary highlights harmful effects of closed GE plant

Bri Greyling, Campus Carrier Copy Editor

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In order to promote awareness about the harmful effects of the General Electric plant in Rome, Brian Campbell created a documentary that highlights the dangers that the plant caused to the community. The film works to explain what happened with the plant, how it affected the environment and what is being done to help the environment. Photo by Andrea Hill |Campus Carrier

Brian Campbell, associate professor of anthropology and environmental studies, co-produced the 2018 Rome International Film Festival Audience Award Winner “To Kingdom Come,” a documentary which highlights a variety of perspectives of the General Electric (GE) plant dumping pollutants in the Rome community.

The film presents the relationship between the Rome community and GE Plant. It is told through different experiences from employees of GE, local riverkeepers and scientific experts, according to Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI).

The Etowah River and Oostanaula River form the Coosa River, which flows west into Alabama. GE contaminated the Coosa River with high quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that were discarded from the GE transformer plant on Redmond Circle.

PCB is a toxic liquid that went into the cooling systems of the medium transformers built at GE from 1953 to 1977, but was later banned by the federal government. GE did not produce PCB but used them in the production of their transformers. However, these harmful chemicals remained in the local landscape for over 40 years after the ban.

PCBs were released from the GE plant and dumped in high quantities into the Rome community, through the Little Dry Creek, Horse Lake Creek and the Coosa River.

“Theoretically, no one except for the employees should be using them. How much GE did to protect their employees is a little unclear,” Alice Suroviec, associate professor of chemistry, said. “How much GE told others about leaks or spills seems pretty clear that they didn’t tell anybody, until they had to.”

While polluting the local rivers, GE also contaminated residential and commercial properties, according to the Rome News Tribune. Ecological effects, toxicity and other health hazards resulted from the chemical, which affects the aquatic food chain as it lies in the river bottom sediment.

GE has not only polluted Rome, but also the Hudson River by discarding millions of pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River from 1946 to 1976, according to the President of Scenic Hudson Ned Sullivan.

Although GE invested nearly $2 billion in dredging efforts to clean the Hudson River, Rome has been left with a toxic legacy without any dredging.

While the three rivers are a huge attraction, kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming, nonprofit CRBI is at a disadvantage when fighting GE for proper river regulation. GE is a powerful company with more lawyers, scientists and researchers, allowing them to influence what they deem an appropriate chemical cleanup process.

“We’re at a competitive disadvantage trying to get what we feel is the best cleanup in place,” CRBI Advocacy and Communication Coordinator Joe Cook said. “What we found is that GE dictated what they were going to cleanup, how they were going to clean up, to what extent they were going to clean it up. In a lot of ways, the state environmental protection division just kind of rubber-stamped GE’s plant.”

Berry’s Environmental Studies Program, CRBI and Georgia Highlands College are co-sponsoring the screening of “To Kingdom Come” at Heritage Hall Centre Stage on Feb. 21, 2019 at 6 p.m. There is no cost for admission but donations are encouraged in support of CRBI and their ongoing work.

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