Our Kepone entry details one of the first national environmental scandals that played out here in Virginia during the mid-1970s. The toxic chemical was produced in Hopewell and for nine years dumped in the James River.
The citizens of Hopewell discovered the effects of this dumping in 1975, when an employee of Life Sciences, who suffered from a peculiar case of uncontrollable shivering, was determined to have high levels of Kepone in his blood. Almost immediately, the plant was shut down. Studies were released demonstrating Kepone’s negative effects on neurological and reproductive systems, as well as the liver, skin, and vision. Meanwhile, analysis showed that Kepone was found throughout the James, in its sediment, and all over Hopewell.
Commercial fishing was promptly banned. So was sport fishing. And straight away the Dead Kennedys began to write music. Or at least punk rock.
Above is an outtake from the band’s original recording session, starring a “tasty little chemical” named Jello Biafra. “Kepone Factory” eventually appeared as a one minute and seventeen second blast on In God We Trust, Inc. (1981).