28 July 2009

Interview with Stephanie Soechtig: 'Tapped' Director

By Mary Vincent - Follow on Twitter @MaryVincent
is a new documentary featuring the virtually unregulated business of bottled water and its lifecycle, including health, environmental, and human rights issues. Documentary interviews include community members, politicians, scientists, and government agency representatives. I'm grateful to have seen the Tapped documentary and interviewed Director, Stephanie Soechtig. I will share the Trailer and our discussion below including actions we as citizens, community members, consumers, business owners, and governments can take today.
The Trailer is here:

Stephanie Soechtig is Co-Founder, President, Director, and Producer at Atlas Films and has produced television for ten years. Atlas Films Co-Founders also include Mike Walrath, Founder of Right Media which was sold off to Yahoo in 2007, and Michelle Walrath, Founder and Executive Director of the Walrath Family Foundation, dedicated to having a positive impact on the environment and furthering awareness of conservation and sustainable practices.

Tapped Documentary and Website Facts
- the bottled water industry uses 47 million gallons of fossil fuels each year to produce plastic bottles. Another 450 million gallons is used to transport bottled water.
- if you drank 2 litres of bottled water per day, you would pay $1,400 per year.
- there is an Eastern Garbage Patch in the Pacific twice the size of Texas and is a soup of Plastic.
- the EPA constantly tests municipal tap water and makes reports available to the public every year. Bottled water company tests do not have to be released to the public.
- right now the cost of bottled water is higher than the cost of gasoline.
- 80% of the PET manufactured in the US ends up in Nestle, Coke, and Pepsi containers.
- of the 80 million single serve plastic bottles Americans buy, 30 million end up in landfills.
- only about 20% of plastic bottles are recycled.
- by 2030, 2/3 of the world's people will lack access to drinking water
- Nestle is one of the biggest profiters of bottled water.
- Fryeburg, Maine residents are fighting Nestle for access to their own water.
- 36 U.S. States are expected to have drought in the next 5 years.
- Pepsi was still continuing to bottle 400,000 gallons of water a day from a lake near Atlanta, even though the town was undergoing severe water restrictions.
- In Corpus Christi, Texas, State EPA representatives were told not to inform the community next to the Flint Hills Petrochemical Plant about the environmental dangers. Only if a complaint were filed, than the Texas State EPA would look at it. In Corpus Christi, Texas, birth defects are 84% higher than the rest of the state.
- Bisphenol A, a chemical found in plastic, has been found to cause heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, attention deficit disorder, ovarian disease, and low sperm count in men.
- Nestle, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola control 60 percent of the U.S. bottled water market, and use municipal supplies (tap water) for three of the four biggest brands, Aquafina, Dasani and the Swiss company's Pure Life
- Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi-Co declined to be interviewed for the Tapped documentary
- Quote: "There is enough water for human need, but not human greed" Mahatma Ghandi
- Tapped is a Clinton Global Initiative Project

Mary: How did you become involved in Directing Tapped?
Stephanie: I produced television for ten years and co-founded Atlas Films with Mike and Michelle Wolrath. Investing in an environmental film was being discussed, and we eventually decided to make our own film.

Mary: Do you have any particular parts of the Tapped documentary you like best and of which you are most proud?
Stephanie: I'm sentimental towards the people in Texas living on the oil refinery fence line. People don't tend to think about the actual production of the plastic when they think about plastic bottles.
Neil Carmen, former Texas State EPA inspector responsible for for inspecting plants, was told by superiors not to knock on people's doors and disturb the community with environmental issues. The EPA was not going out of their way to protect citizens. The thing I love most about Tapped is that it's the story of people putting their time, energy, and sometimes their lives on the line for something they believe in. And they are truly making a difference in the world as a result. I think the humanity of the film's characters really shines through in the last 10-15 minutes of the film when they are just telling their own stories of going up against massive corporations and they're just talking - they're not really being "interviewed" anymore - they're just sharing a story about their lives. I get goosebumps every time I watch those last 10 minutes.
1. Jim Wilfong, director of H20 for Maine and former President Bill Clinton Small Business Administration Assistant for International Trade states:
"We are the children of revolutionary war soldiers, and we are not going to give this up without a fight”.
2. Frederick Vom Saal, (per a Bill Moyers Interview) "Bisphenol A is actually the chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic. It's the hard, clear plastic used in baby bottles, and it also is the lining of all metal cans made in the United States - beer cans, soda cans, food cans. And this chemical leaches out of all of these products into any kind of food or beverages that come in contact with it....We got interested that maybe this chemical (Bisphenol A) was a lot more potent than anybody had previously thought. And so we did a study where we administered it to mice, and found that at a dose 25,000 times below what anybody had ever tested, we caused damage to the entire developing male reproductive system."
3. Maine Resident (to Nestle): "We're not going to let you take our water; it's our water".

Mary: Are Tapped video clips available online, including the exchange with Senator John Kerry and the FDA representative where the FDA representative only receives Studies given to it by Industry and does not ask for Independent Studies?
Stephanie: This exchange isn't available in a video clip outside the movie, however, the Trailer and other videos on the website are good sources.

Mary: Do you know if it's still the policy of the FDA to not ask for Independent Studies?
Stephanie: To my knowledge nothing has changed yet. I'm hopeful with a new administration this practice will get more attention than it has in the past. In the meantime, it's up to us consumers to realize that we vote with our dollar everyday. It's up to us to become more educated about the things we buy everyday and to realize that in many ways when you buy a product you are endorsing it. And sadly, myself included, I think we buy alot of things without thinking if this is a company we want to endorse. It's funny - we are far more discerning about the charities we'll give money to yet we hand out thousands of dollars for things without so much as a thought of how, where, or who produced it.

Mary: Do you have a list of chemicals in bottled water?
Stephanie: Food and Water Watch and NRDC are good sources.

Mary: When can people across the United States see your Tapped documentary?
Stephanie: There are limited showings in New York and LA. It will show at the Mill Valley International Film Festival (San Rafael, CA) Oct 8-19, 2009. A list of showings are on the website, and you can register to host a screening or reserve a DVD.

Mary: What can people, businesses, and governments do?
Stephanie: There are more examples where governments are not using tax dollars to buy bottled water, i.e. Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco. There are petitions on the website where you can ask Jennifer Aniston and Tom Brady to stop endorsing Smart Water, write your elected officials to stop using tax dollars to buy bottled water and invest in water infrastructure, buy a water filter, buy a reusable water bottle i.e. Klean Kanteen which is BPA-free and stainless steel. We have forgotten about the Power of One. Vote with your dollar.
Taxing plastic bottles would be a great solution.

Mary: Does Tapped have social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter?
Stephanie: Yes. The sites are: Facebook and Twitter.

Mary: Thank you.
Stephanie: Thank you.

(Photos courtesy of 'Tapped'.)