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Calif. filmmaker focusing on suspected toxic Army post in new documentary

A Shasta Lake filmmaker is working on a documentary about veterans suspected to have been contaminated at an Alabama military post where he served.

“This kind of hit home with me a little bit,” said Ted Methvin Jr., one half of Empty Pipe Creations.

Methvin’s newest production — “Toxic Service: The Soldiers’ Story” — takes a look at Fort McClellan, a shuttered Army post in Anniston, Ala., that has since landed on an Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous waste site list. Fort McClellan was used, in part, for chemical experiments, and many veterans who have passed through there attribute their strange health problems to exposure at the fort.

“I talk to probably 10 to 20 new ones every day,” Methvin said of the veterans he’s found to interview for the documentary. “I hear their stories about what they’re going through and ‘How could this happen?’ It’s a horrible feeling.”

Methvin’s film — which will be shot in July and he expects to debut by the end of September — also will look at a bill being proposed by a New York Congressman that aims to delve deeper into the suspected link between Fort McClellan and sick veterans.

“They’re now scattered across the country, and so this is legitimately a national issue,” Sean Magers, communications director for Rep. Paul Tonko, said of Fort McClellan veterans. “He wants to begin to ask the question of why so many people who served there are experiencing these issues.”

Tonko sponsored HR 411, The Fort McClellan Health Registry Act, because he had a constituent who believes she was sickened there, Magers said.

He has brought the bill forward to every Congress since 2009, Magers said, but so far it’s never taken up.

“We’re hoping that we have the momentum this year,” he said. “We promise them the world when they sign on the line and enter the service, and ... this is one of the many arenas where a very substantial portion of veterans seem to have been forgotten.”

Indeed, Methvin said, many of the veterans he’s contacted feel neglected since they’ve gotten ill.

“They feel they volunteered for their country and now when they’re sick ... the country has turned its back on them,” he said.

To learn more about the film, go to emptypipecreations.wix.com/epcfilms or emptypipecreations.wix.com/toxicservice.

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