December 31, 2018  (Web Review)

Atomic Homefront

(2017) 96 min. DVD: $89: public libraries; $395: colleges & universities. Women Make Movies (www.wmm.com). PPR.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Filmmaker Rebecca Cammisa’s documentary serves up an eye-opening examination of one of the longest-running and least-known environmental disasters on the American mainland: the health problems created by the burial of 47,000 tons of radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill near the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton, MO. The waste can be traced back to World War II-era uranium processing for the Manhattan Project, but its presence was mostly unknown to local residents until a significant odor began to emanate from the landfill. Even more damaging, cancers known to be tied to radiation began to be recorded in the area—even dogs have developed tumors. Although the landfill has been an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site since 1990, the underlying problem was never properly addressed, and an out-of-control underground fire only made a bad situation worse, while the site’s owner, Republic Services, routinely dismissed health concerns. Grassroots lobbying efforts by a group called Just Moms STL in 2016 are stonewalled when Obama-era EPA chief Gina McCarthy refuses to meet with the group. An effort to communicate with Bill Gates, who has significant shareholdings in Republic Services, is also ignored. And none of the elected officials representing the area in Congress agree to come on camera. Atomic Homefront presents a frustrating example of how corporate and government entities can blithely work against the will of the people and pretend that a catastrophe does not exist. Highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)