My Toxic Backyard, screening Thursday, Sept. 25 at 5:00 p.m. at JCSM, chronicles Asheville, North Carolina’s fight to get clean drinking water as the contaminated soil of an old manufacturing plant continues to leak carcinogens into their water more than 20 years after the threat was first reported to the Environmental Protection Agency. Through investigative reporting and in-depth interviews, producer and director Katie Damien’s film dredges up the sludge that accumulates after decades of inaction.
Damien, who will attend the screening in Auburn, is an award-winning filmmaker with a Bachelor of Arts in film production from the University of Central Florida, currently living in Asheville, the community chronicled in her film. My Toxic Backyard is her first feature documentary, and was supported through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Below she shares how she first became aware of what was happening.
This all started because I wanted to buy a house. Asheville, North Carolina is a beautiful area nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Housing prices are generally high no matter where you go in the area. So when I found a section of town where the houses were affordably priced, my first thought was, what’s wrong with this area? There was no high crime rate, no dilapidated houses, it was close to city limits, but not too close. I thought I might have stumbled upon a hidden gem.
My realtor showed me multiple homes in the area and I started to get excited. I told a friend of mine about this amazing find and as soon as I told him where it was, he stopped me. “There’s something bad in the water out there. Don’t buy a house there!” he said.
“What’s in the water?” I asked, perplexed that I had never heard about this before and I had lived in Asheville for more the five years. “I don’t know, but it’s making people sick.”