Right-to-Know

A whistle-blower accuses the Kochs of “poisoning” an Arkansas town

 An aeration pond in Crossett, Arkansas, part of a waste-treatment system used by a Koch-owned paper company.PHOTOGRAPH BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI / COURTESY COMPANY TOWN

An aeration pond in Crossett, Arkansas, part of a waste-treatment system used by a Koch-owned paper company. PHOTOGRAPH BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI / COURTESY COMPANY TOWN

CROSSETT, AR — “This summer, [Dickie Guice, who worked as a safety coördinator at a large Koch-owned paper plant in Arkansas] decided to speak out about the paper mill in Crossett, a working-class town of some fifty-two hundred residents ten miles north of the Louisiana border.* The mill is run by the paper giant Georgia-Pacific, which has been owned by Koch Industries since 2005. According to E.P.A. records, it emits more than 1.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals each year, including numerous known carcinogens. Georgia-Pacific says that it has permits to operate the mill as it does, and disputes that it is harming local health and safety. But as far back as the nineteen-nineties, people living near the plant have described noxious odors and corrosive effluents that have forced them to stay indoors, as well as what seems to them unusually high rates of illness and death. Speaking by phone from his home, in Sterlington, Louisiana, Guice pointed the finger directly at the mill’s owners, and described a corporate coverup of air and water pollution that he says is “poisoning” the predominantly African-American community.

Guice made his début as a whistle-blower in a new documentary film, ‘Company Town,’ about the pollution of Crossett, which premièred in June at the L.A. Film Festival. Natalie Kottke-Masocco, the film’s director, and Erica Sardarian, its co-director, spent some five years in Crossett, and over time they coaxed Guice to go on camera. ‘I was warned that I’d never get hired again,’ he told me, when I asked why he was coming forward. ‘But I thought, What the heck, what are they going to do, kill me? It had to be done.’”

— Jane Mayer, The New Yorker

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