Kimberly Levin is a woman of many talents. As a biochemist, she did field research testing stream waters in her home state of Kentucky. Her work led her to discover and expose a textile factory that was dumping poisonous by-product into a tributary of Lake Cumberland, a place where many in the region get their drinking water. Now as a director, she has created Runoff, a film that takes inspiration from that period of her life.
“The discovery helped lead to the factory’s eventual closing but I was haunted by the fact that the plant was simply relocated to another community, and the problem became someone else’s,” Levin told us, “I became obsessed with the way people make choices when their backs are against the wall, when there is no ‘good’ choice in front of you.”
Runoff is not a documentary, but rather a nail-biting drama that examines how water is both the source of life and also, unfortunately, often a handy dumping ground for chemicals. The film (both terrifying in its themes and beautiful in its shots of raw bucolic splendor) focuses on a farm family pushed to the brink when they find themselves under brutal competitive pressure from agribusiness. Betty, the main character, must decide if she will dispose of chemicals into the neighborhood creek in exchange for a lucrative payout that will save her family when they are threatened from their land. The character-driven stunner just became available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Watch the movie and we guarantee you will give water safety a second thought. But instead of just worrying about your water, you can take concrete actions, says Levin. She suggests starting by finding out what’s coming out of your tap—what’s in the water you drink every day. Visit your local water treatment facility and learn about how your water is treated. You may be surprised to find out what contaminants your municipal water treatment plant allows in your water and what they put in it to purify it. Consult this list from the EPA to learn about contaminants that may be found in your tap.
No matter the status of your water, get involved with the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization that helps communities protect their right to clean water. Find a chapter in your area and help monitor and defend the health of your local watershed.