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Film Review: What Lies Upstream
by Karen Pecota

In January 2014 West Virginia citizens noticed that their tap water has a peculiar smell and reported concerns to authorities. A report showed that a strange chemical, MCHM, had leaked into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking water for half of the West Virginians. Some reports claimed that the water supply was poisoned. Filmmaker Cullen Hoback is concerned because he has family ties to the state and wanted to know the details of such a tragedy.

Hoback's investigative research proves to be more than just asking a simple question to receive a simple answer. Hoback's findings uncover that the framework of the state and federal regulatory agencies are in disarray, stemming from a messed-up political system. Coincidentally, while Hoback is documenting his detective story in West Virginia, the water crisis unfolds and is made public in Flint, Michigan. Both stories support the case that the system set in place to protect America's drinking water has more-than major flaws, affecting millions of lives.

Hoback takes his film audience on a journey of discovery to the alarming crisis affecting America's drinking water supply. His years of detailed documentation, eye witness accounting and a host of special guests sharing their expertise spotlight the dangers of an American Dream. Hoback admits, "The film reveals the problem to be much more widespread than one chemical spill in West Virginia or one lead contamination incident in Flint, Michigan." His research makes clear, "The public knows very little about what chemicals are in the water supply." He adds, "And, even less about the weak regulations and enforcement practices meant to protect it." Hoback continues, "Just because you don't live in West Virginia or Flint doesn't mean your water is safe."

Hoback's research is to be admired and looked at as a warning to all Americans to not hide under a bushel when crisis hits but to stand up for justice. Hoback learns, "Chemicals and their safety in the environment, as revealed trough the regulators, politicians, and lobbyists, are really a legal matter that is masked under the pretense of science." Acknowledging about his findings, "I'll be forever grateful to Flint expert, Dr. Marc Edwards, and EPA whistleblower, Dr. David Lewis for providing key clues about our regulators, clues that would later solve the question: Why is the system to protect drinking water in America broken?" Hoback said that he didn't think to ask this question because he didn't know the system was broken.