Toxic Soup, The Politics of Pollution: documentary

A welcome visit to this website from Rory Owen Delaney brings news of his latest documentary, Toxic Soup, a Michael Moore style investigation into lives lived under the smokestack shade of giant chemical plants.

The ultimate reference point for everyone living near a chemical factory is Bhopal and the terror of what happened there. After 25 years and more than 20,000 dead Bhopal remains the world’s worst industrial disaster. But for how much longer? In Institute, West Virgina, an explosion at the Bayer plant (originally owned by Union Carbide and a sister plant to the factory in Bhopal) killed two plant workers and came within 80 feet of a stockpile of MIC, the chemical that caused the deaths in Bhopal.

In this first excerpt from Toxic Soup people living near the Institute plant tell of the terrifying night the MIC plant caught fire and Bhopal campaigners visit West Virginia State University. The two groups compare notes. Worry hardens to grim certainty that for all its assurances and multi-million dollar public relations campaigns, the chemical industry cannot guarantee anyone’s safety.

If it happened in Bhopal, it can, and one day will, happen to you.

Ever gotten a free Christmas turkey… from a chemical plant? In this second short excerpt from Toxic Soup, Eboni Cochran and Renee Murphy talk about living in west Louisville in what locals call the “Vulnerable Zone,” aka “Rubbertown”, a mostly African-American community in Louisville, Kentucky, which got its name because of all the chemicals plants that were constructed in the area during World War II.

Toxic Soup’s writer and director Rory Delahunt, who learned the art of dramatic writing from legendary screenwriter Walter Bernstein at New York University, explains how he came to make his film.

“Today there is a lot of media attention surrounding issues like global warming and Mountain Top Removal – and deservingly so. However, I wanted to make a documentary that addressed some of the USA’s lesser-known environmental problems.

“After getting my MFA from New York University and moving to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting, I met a West Virginian by the name of Kyle Stratton Crace. I told Kyle about “Method in the Mountains,” a documentary that I edited about a “Method” acting seminar led by a colorful Lee Strasburg Institute professor in Beckely, WV. In turn, Kyle spoke about his life in Marmet, West Virginia, an area known as the “Chemical Valley.” From this conversation “Toxic Soup” was born.

“When Kyle and I set off for West Virginia, I had an initial vision for the documentary based on research, but that vision grew exponentially after arriving in the state and beginning the interview process. One person referred us to another, and another to another, and before we knew it, we had crossed over eight states in our pursuit of answers.

“From Charleston to Louisville and Pittsburgh to Bhopal, India, everyday people were fighting to protect their air, water and blood from pollution. And while the toxins changed and the polluters in question varied, there was a hauntingly similar pattern connecting the communities.

“From chemicals to radioactive oil to coal slurry and vaccines, folks were finding problems in their backyards and challenging their politicians to do something about it. Toxic Soup shares their stories.”

We will soon have a longer excerpt from Toxic Soup on our documentary page. Meanwhile here’s a Charleston Gazette interview with Rory. For information about screenings, including buying copies of the documentary for your own for-profit or non-profit screening, please go to

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