(light piano music)>>In the 1970s it was a major national,
international story. Kepone was also significant because it created
new amendments to
the Clean Water Act. The Kepone case was
a major federal case, the largest fine ever
given to a company for an environmental
case up till that point. So it’s had a legacy beyond 1975 for sure.>>The French West Indies,
there are two islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe were heavily hit
by this molecule. We estimate that 30% of
the soil is polluted. 30% of the water around Martinique and Guadeloupe
are also polluted. And 92% of the population
has Kepone in its blood.>>Oh gosh, we used
to come outta there looking like we’d been in
a powdered doughnut fight, and I was the loser. (laughing) Like you had
talcum powder all over you. That was Kepone. (light music)>>Kepone, it’s the brand name of a chemical
called chlordecone. In the US they used very
small amounts of Kepone as bait in ant and roach traps. It was distributed
across the globe. It was used against two insects,
the Colorado potato beetle, and then the other was
the banana root bore, which is an insect that is
damaging to banana plantations. Most of the Kepone that Allied
made was here in Hopewell. And then they did
that until 1974. And behind me in the distance,
is the former Allied plant. They had the patent for Kepone, and they had Life Science
manufacture it for them. Across the street from
us is the former site of where the Life
Science factory was. It was the only
operation making Kepone for the entire world
for that one year when they were here. In 1975, workers who were
at the Life Science facility began to experience
various medical conditions. They had severe shaking,
tremors, headaches, chest pains. One doctor, he was able
to take samples of blood from one of the
workers and send that to the Center for
Disease Control. And those results came back
and showed that this worker had extremely high levels
of Kepone in his blood, so Kepone poisoning. And that event is what prompted the Virginia Health Department
to visit Life Science in 1975 in the summer. And they discovered Kepone
dust in the factory, around the factory,
blowing across the road. And at that point, they
shut down the facility. And that Kepone dust, it
landed on cars and, you know, businesses and homes, in and around the
Life Science factory.>>So other citizens
were affected, then?>>Yeah, they were
not to the degree fortunately as the workers. They ingested large amounts in a fairly short
period of time. The people around Life Science
ingested smaller amounts. So fortunately, they were
not as deeply affected. But again, there haven’t
been large studies done of the long term
effects in Hopewell. They found out that the
Kepone had been dumped into the sewer
system in Hopewell. Which then emptied out
into the James River. And they found that
Kepone had been ingested by various fish and
shellfish in the river. The governor closed the
James River to fishing from the Falls at Richmond, all the way to the
mouth of the river which empties into
the Chesapeake Bay, I think by 1985 or 1988, I think the last ban
was finally lifted. Although, there is still a
warning to anglers in the river that Kepone is still out there,
and to be cognizant of that. And they recommend a limited
number of fish be eaten. There was a number of
lawsuits against Life Science and against Allied
to sue for damages. Because you know, shutting
down that fishing industry cost them millions of dollars.>>We went on medications
to try to heal the tremor, the tremor in my voice,
and the tremor my hands.>>It was about 150
employees total who worked for Life Science. Of those about 30 were
hospitalized with symptoms. 29 workers, and one wife
of one of the workers ended up in the hospital
to undergo testing to see how much Kepone
they had in their blood, and try to treat them.>>And as a result, we both
would break out into a rash.>>Workers essentially
brought the Kepone home. They had it on their clothes, and it got into the
laundry, or in the house. And so the wives or the
children or even pets would ingest it
when they went home. And even as late as 10 years
after, some of the workers still showed signs of
shakes and tremors. Some of them had
psychological damage by being affected so much
that they couldn’t work. Fortunately, most of the
workers seem to have recovered in terms of getting the
Kepone out of their bodies. And up till this point at least, we’ve had no reports of
cancer in the workers. But there haven’t been
significant studies done either.>>I’m 63.
>>That’s still young!>>My body feels like
it’s bout 90. (laughing) (wind chimes ringing)>>You remember this sign? Welcome to Hopewell?
>>Absolutely. We had this thing
around the neighborhood. You smell, I smell, we
all smell, Hopewell. (laughing)>>How old were you when you worked
at Life Sciences?>>I started when I was 18. Oh, I was one of three welders. The ingredients actually ate
holes in stainless steel. Yeah, so we’d have to take
that piece of pipe out and put another one in. And they never wanted
to stop production. I posted shifts over there
that took like 24 hours. Because I’d come
into the break room and lay down, and get
a little bit of rest. But everything in there was
covered like a powder doughnut. I started getting these
rashes around my neck.>>And what were some
other symptoms you had?>>Oh, my hands shaking so bad. Kepone quivers is I called ’em. I made that one up myself.>>How long did you have that?>>Well I don’t know,
if I get real nervous, it’ll come back now. I don’t know, memory
wasn’t all that great. And it still isn’t. (laughing) I guess you call it depression. (laughing) Yeah well, shucks, by
now, I’d be some kind a… welding manager or something
like that, you know? I mean if I’d
never worked there. None of this stuff
would be happening. (light piano music) And then when we
got our settlement, I ended up with 65,000. Now after that, they took
out all the tests that done to us. Which I volunteered for. They charged me for ’em. I ended up with $22,000, which I could have made
a lot more than that if I would’a stayed at work. Well you know, hand
shaking so bad, and doing all that kinda stuff. Aint nobody gonna hire a welder.>>How long do you think it was till you worked again?>>It was a while. ‘Cause it took me a long time to get my shakes under control. I’ve been on
disability since 1994. Well, scleroderma, that
means hard skin in Latin, autoimmune disease.>>And that could
be from the Kepone?>>Well, they said it could
be one of the triggers that started it. And then my sister has it,
and my brother has CREST.>>Do you think that
could be related to them being near you when
you worked around the Kepone?>>The only thing we did was to share the
same washing machine. I could take of one of them
pins that comes on a shirt. I could run it in
the skin over here till it comes out
on the other side. And I don’t feel that.>>It’s like, just dead nerves?>>Yeah. Well you know when you
squirt a bug with… any type of insecticide,
they’re turned upside down, and the… legs start shaking, it’s working on their
central nervous system. It’s doing the same thing to me. Only I’m a lot bigger than a
roach, or whatever. (laughing)>>What do the neurologists say?>>He said “You have
more neuropathy “than anybody I’ve ever
seen in my life.” (laughing)>>So your livers still
show signs of Kepone?>>The last biopsy
I had it was 4.3… million, and there shouldn’t
be any, and there be.>>When was that? A while ago?>>It’s been a while back now. (deep coughing)>>Were your lungs affected?>>Yeah, to a certain extent. I’m trying to keep it till they all wear
out at one time. (laughing) That’s why I still
smoke a cigarette every now and again. I don’t want my lungs
to last any more than my liver’s gonna stay or anything like
that. (laughing) But you gotta laugh about it or else you’ll cry about it. That’s not on the itinerary. (laughing)>>I’m a independent
documentary filmmaker. I’m from Belgium. I came here because
this beast, (laughing) we call it the chemical monster
was born here in Hopewell and it has been polluting
a lot of areas in the world particularly the
French West Indies. When Kepone factory
was closed here, A French company bought the
patent and made it in Brazil. Then it was exported
to the French Indies. (tense music) At that time you know,
it was in the ’70s, ’80s, workers, they used to
take it with their hand and put it like
this on the trees, no gloves, no mask, nothing.
(tribal music) And so they use it
to to kill insects along the roots of
the banana trees. It never got up to the banana,
so the bananas are safe, but all the rest is polluted now because the molecule
with the water with the rain, it
get into the ground where people used to
grow they vegetables. So that means that people
have eaten Kepone for years, maybe 20 to 30 years. Also the water was polluted, so they used to drink
water with Kepone in it. That’s why the
figures are so high. 92% of the population
has Kepone in its blood. A scientist in France has
calculated it would stay for 500 to 600 years in
the soil of Martinique. 30% of the water, you
cannot fish in it anymore because the fish
are contaminated. Martinique has now, the highest rate of prostate
cancer in the world. But there is also blood
cancers, breast cancers and other diseases that
might be associated. The investigation is
going on right now. And also it causes fertility
problems, to the male. Like I said it’s a
chemical monster. So it’s a political issue also because the Ministers
of Agriculture who gave the authorization
to use this product, when it was already
banned in the US have a great responsibility. And most of the workers
are from African origin. So it’s also racial issues. It’s like a bomb in
the French Antilles. It could become a very
serious social problem too.>>We’ve been told no research
has been done on the links between Frank’s disease,
scleroderma and Kepone. A neurologist involved in
the original medical tests tells us “The last
health studies were done “16 months after the first
patients began coming in “and the blood was cleared. “There were selective
persons in Hopewell, “not employees, tested,
and very low levels “were found in some,
but none had any illness “thought to be due to
Kepone intoxication.” As far as the
James River health, the Virginia Institute
of Marine Science or VIMS says “The latest monitoring
on fish in the James “shows any Kepone
found in the samples “is below what requires action.” VIMS has partnered with French
universities and agencies in researching how Kepone breaks
down to help in the efforts to manage and remediate
the contamination in Guadeloupe and Martinique where 90% of the population
has been affected. And Bernard
Crutzen’s documentary was just released in Europe.