The Hudson River PCB Story - A Toxic Heritage   Warning Sign

Winner of a Bronze Medal
1998 Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival

The Hudson River `This is no ordinary place,´ begins Andy Mele, the Environmental Director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a widely-respected 30-year old education and advocacy group formed by folksinger Pete Seeger. The Hudson River PCB Story: a Toxic Heritage opens with the gentle rocking of the sloop Clearwater and children playing in lapping waves on the shore. Soon, however, that pleasant imagery is shattered by eerie scenes of moonsuited men in damp underground caverns, and poisonous oils oozing out of solid rock.

Video The Hudson River PCB Story
61 Seconds - 3.2MB - Quicktime

In straightforward yet scientifically exacting terms, Clearwater´s researchers and a cast of star environmental scientists describe the history of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) dumping by General Electric, its effects on wildlife and humans, and outline a strategy for cleaning the Hudson River.

GE Plant Here is an informative film as breathtakingly beautiful as it is disturbing. Exquisite cinematography throughout captures the fragility of the natural balance along the banks of the Hudson. Magnificent views of the region juxtapose strongly with the devastating fact of PCB pollution. A green-backed heron gliding across the water, the narrator explains, may have toxic levels of PCBs in its brain, and the very few bald eagles that have begun nesting along the river may hatch genetically damaged offspring.

Cleaning Up People and animals who eat at the top of the heavily contaminated food chain ingest concentrated amounts of PCBs. This can lead to cancer, and hormonal and reproductive disruptions. PCB exposure has additional effects on our children - high levels of PCBs in the brain and nervous system of one generation effect the cognitive abilities of the next. Even those PCBs previously thought to be non-toxic have now been shown to reduce the levels of dopamine, an essential neurotransmitter in the human brain.

Polution Map The film describes the socioeconomic repercussions as well as environmental dangers of PCB dumping. Prior to G.E.´s industrial dumping, there was a vibrant commercial and recreational fishery on the Hudson, worth $40 million per year to the people of the valley. Today, fish caught in the river are dangerously high in toxins and are unsafe to eat. PCBs from Hudson River fish are a serious health risk to poor and disadvantaged children whose parents must fish for subsistence. These are the same populations most at risk from many other pollutants. The Hudson River PCB Story doesn´t stop with New York and the United States. Experts explain how high levels of PCBs in the Hudson effect ecosystems as distant as arctic Canada.

Though the facts are startling, Clearwater carefully avoids fear-mongering. Obvious efforts are made to avoid demonizing G.E. in favor of calling attention to cleanup projects that could remove the risks of PCB exposure. The focus is consistently on accurate information and hopeful solutions.

Kids Playing in the River Well suited to classrooms, with diagrams, correct scientific terms and detailed explanations, this 27 minute video is equally enjoyable for its stunning depiction of wildlife along the river. Made with the intent of informing as many people as possible about the deadly toxin.

The Hudson River PCB Story

All images on this page are from The Hudson River PCB Story: a Toxic Heritage  
Written by Andy Mele - Videography by Tobe Carey - Produced and Directed by Tobe Carey
Produced by Willow Mixed Media in association with Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
Made possible by a grant from the W. Alton Jones Foundation