That trial begins in March. Now, he was feeding them twice as much and watching them waste away. Jones, who has lived in the area for most of her life, recalled DuPont's heavy involvement in the community, from sponsoring community activities and education to employing a great deal of the area's residents. Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle against DuPont. (Courtesy Seth Freeman Photography), Weathered signage on the Point Park floodwall greets passersby in downtown Parkersburg, West Virginia, on Nov. 20, 2019. PFAS are […] The calf was engulfed in a black, humming mist. actually one house is on Juliana in the historic district and one is on Market outside the district. PADEN CITY — Residents of Paden City are drinking water contaminated by the presence of a chemical associated with dry cleaning facilities, city officials announced last week. He had stopped feeding his family venison from the deer he shot on his land. Whatever had killed this cow appeared to have eaten her from the inside out. Today, she has high cholesterol. According to a 2007 study, C8 is in the blood of 99.7% of Americans. That calf had died miserable. Dry Run used to flow gin clear. It kicked and thumped and wallered around there like you wouldn’t believe.”. Higgs, now an emergency room physician living in Richmond, Virginia, recalls returning from road trips with his family asleep in the back seat, awakened as they approached home by the familiar waft of chemicals. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference. He wasn’t an expert, but the disease seemed clear enough that he bagged the physical evidence and left it in his freezer for the day he could get someone with credentials interested enough to take a look. He panned the camera a few degrees. They need it and they deserve it.â. The Federal EPA has designated Parkersburg as a “MS4” (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) storm water community. His cattle were dying inexplicably, and in droves. He sliced open the chest cavity, pulled out a lung, and turned the camera back on. The tongue looked normal, but some of the teeth were coal black, interspersed with the white ones like piano keys. At PUB, our utility systems serve greater Parkersburg with 32,000+/- residents, and will continue to serve the future needs of our community. Joyce graduated from Parkersburg High School in 1992, went off and earned three degrees and came home. Marketplace is a division of MPR's 501 (c)(3). When he cut out the other lung, he noted dark purple splotches where they should have been fluffy and pink. By 2001, while still working on the Tennant case, Bilott came to realize that the C8 contamination wasn't isolated to the Tennant property, but extended across a large swath of the mid-Ohio River Valley. âWe came from that community and that community did a lot to shape us. The Wood County Water Department, located in Parkersburg, WV, is an utility company that operates the public water system. Cox, Hawkins and Higgs were among a pack of guys who ran together in high school and stayed close after. Or does it? Black smoke curled into the daylight. âI really do. Bilott won a $670 million settlement with Dupont over its undisclosed contamination of the drinking water of 70,000 residents in West Virginia and Ohio. His earlier efforts had all revealed unpleasant surprises: tumors, abnormal organs, unnatural smells. “She’s poor as a whip-poor-will. Because thatâs what will happen.ââ Her momâs response was, ââOh, Beth.â Thatâs it. Shin-Paper-2 Report contains detailed information on the Tennant lawsuit. In the flames, a calf lay broadside, burning. Heâs heard, âIf DuPont leaves, weâre done. (Photo by Lexi Browning/100 Days in Appalachia). That’s why they called it Dry Run. Bridges spanning across the Ohio River are seen between West Virginia and Ohio, seen from Parkersburg, West Virginia, where the chemical PFOA leeched into the water supply. A collective decision was made to use the money won in the class-action suit to conduct an epidemiological study in which nearly 70,000 of the 80,000 plaintiffs stopped into one of six clinics set up throughout the community, provided their medical histories and offered their blood. âDark Watersâ â a legal thriller starring Mark Ruffalo, with a script inspired by a 2016 New York Times article â tells the epic story of the DuPont corporationâs failure to inform residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley of the considerable health risks of a perfluoroalkyl substance [PFAS] called perfluorooctanoic acid, or C8, for its chain of eight carbons. In 2005, it reached a $16.5 million settlement with the EPA for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act. Well-paying jobs, great benefits, Little League sponsorships, investments in the arts â but at a cost. (Photo by Lexi Browning/100 Days in Appalachia), Longtime resident Nancy Roettger characterizes the communityâs reaction to the revelation of what DuPont had done as a âweird mix.â. Contaminated Water in the Parkersburg Area in West Stephen Opoku-Duah*, Gordon Wells 1 , Wycliff Kipkomoi , Ashley Wilcox 1 , Dennis Johnson 2 and Mark Wiley 3 1 Ohio Valley University College of Arts and Sciences, Ohio Valley University, 1 Campus View Drive, Vienna, WV 26105 . He often walked through the woods shirtless and shoeless, his trousers rolled up, and he moved with an agile strength built by a lifetime of doing things like lifting calves over fences. The verdict included damages from DuPont's negligence and a finding that the company’s conduct was malicious. It had paid for the 150 acres of land his great-grandfather had bought and for the two-story, four-room farmhouse pieced together from trees felled in the woods, dragged across fields, and raised by hand. Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. But, some three decades later, there was a price to pay for taking on DuPont. Sure, he paddles in it, but âI try not to get it on meâ and never swims in it. Parkersburg is subject to significant penalties for … PFOA ended up in the public water supplies for miles down the Ohio River from Parkersburg, contaminating public water supplies. Her eyes were sunk deep in her head. It was the old âhey-look-over-here!â move to keep the Teflon dollars flowing into their bank account.â. “How would you like for your livestock to have to drink something like that?” he asked his imagined audience. People were picking up jugs and cases of bottled water. You could poke it with a stick and leave a hole. To see more, please visit ohiowatershed.org. The chemical had seeped into the water supply of at least six public water systems in West Virginia and Ohio. The hand that fed did clench. “just a duke’s mix of everything.” Until lately, the cattle always fattened up nicely on that, plus the corn he grew to finish them and a grain mix he bought from the feed store. Don’t understand that at all. “A tenacious attorney (Ruffalo) uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths due to one of the world’s largest corporations,” the film’s synopsis says. (Photo by Lexi Browning/100 Days in Appalachia), Candace Jones, a native of Vienna, West Virginia, is photographed downtown on Nov. 20, 2019. Bubbles formed as it tumbled over stones in a sudsy film. The chemical was used in DuPontâs production of Teflon and other household products at its Washington Works facility just outside Parkersburg, along the Ohio River. This summer cars lined up in Vienna, a town of about 10,000 situated along the Ohio River. The Washington Works facility, formerly of DuPont, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, is seen from across the Ohio River on Nov. 20, 2019. Now it looked like dirty dishwater. It smelled rotten. A DuPont Teflon producing plant operated near Parkersburg, and that plant has been identified as the likely source. Earlier this year, Chemours was cited by the EPA for the unregulated release of new chemical compounds from its West Virginia and North Carolina facilities. He has a filter installed in his kitchen. He knows, of course, the distinction between correlation and causation. © 2021 Minnesota Public Radio. Industries come into their communities, do well for a while, âscrew up the environment and then leave.â, âItâs time for something new in West Virginia,â she said. Danzey was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer that led to the amputation of her leg. She had spent the summer in the hollow, drinking out of Dry Run until she’d started to act strangely. Driftwood is scattered along the shoreline at Point Park in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on Nov. 20, 2019. Did they think he would just sit by? It was a matter of ânot wanting to bite the hand that fed you.â. They just turn their back and walk on,” he told the camera. But the federal government says C8 levels it once overlooked in the water are … It looked, at most, a few days old. The problem had to be Dry Run, he thought. The kidneys, too, looked abnormal. Thing was, time was running out. Heâs seen both sides. I love this state. On the September Saturday afternoon of the annual Parkersburg Paddlefest, kayaker Travis Hewitt, 31, stood ashore of the point where the Ohio meets the Little Kanawha and said that few people he knows truly believe the waterâs safe. The edge in his voice was anger. âDuPont has been in the Ohio Valley for 70-plus years, and has been a tremendous employer,â he said. Deitzler was the architect of the decision to use the $70 million to conduct the study. He zoomed out and panned over to an industrial pipe spewing froth into the creek. The pipe flowed out of a collection pond at the low end of a landfill. This excerpt was provided courtesy of Atria Books. All Rights Reserved. His freezer had brimmed with venison, wild turkey, squirrel and rabbit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. âItâs time for us to expect more.â, Pondering that future keeps Ben Hawkins up at night. (Photo by Lexi Browning/100 Days in Appalachia), Tracy Danzey grew up in Parkersburg, West Virginia. None of them argue with Tracy about the source of her illnesses. After contacting the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, he felt stonewalled. âI asked the prosecutor if heâd hire me as an assistant the next year, and he said, âSure; youâll get $6,000 a year.â And I said, âThatâll be great.ââ, âMost people thought I was a recovering alcoholic because I never drank a beer, because I couldn’t afford to buy one.â Three years later, at 27, he was appointed as prosecuting attorney. She now lives on the other side of the state, in West Virginiaâs Eastern Panhandle. In 2012, an independent panel of scientists — the C8 Science Panel — concluded drinking PFAS contaminated water was linked with six diseases, including kidney and testicular cancers. The plaintiff, John M. Wolf of Parkersburg, claims that PFOA in his drinking water caused him to develop ulcerative colitis. But company executives failed to inform the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] or the public. DuPont had been aware since at least the 1960s that C8 was toxic in animals and since the 1970s that there were high concentrations of it in the blood of its factory workers. Joyce said heâs heard more about his communityâs long struggle with corporate environmental malfeasance in the past few weeks than in his previous two and a half years in office. The chemical company, DuPont, manufactures products in its Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. I don’t ever remember seeing that in there before.”, He cut out the heart and sliced it open. The movie Dark Waters was based on the contamination of water in Parkersburg, West Virginia, with forever chemicals that were allegedly spilled by an area DuPont plant. Heâd come for a summer internship in the prosecuting attorneyâs office. âItâs hard to look back at that time now and see it as idyllic,â Danzey said. The Kigers have spent the last two decades working to uncover the impacts and effects of C8 exposure in the region. Joe and Darlene Kiger live just a few miles from where Radmanesh grew up. For years, DuPont allowed large amounts of C8 from its plant to contaminate the air, groundwater and landfills in the area resulting in contamination of drinking water in six water districts in Ohio and West Virginia. This area will be like most other towns in West Virginia; itâll collapse.â Heâs also aware of the inherent dangers in living within the shadow of the chemical industry. That thing’s about … oh, two-thirds bigger than it should be.”. In 2004, blood tests revealed higher than average concentrations of PFOA in blood serum in residents of Parkersburg, West Virginia. When not competing, âwe were on the river â¦ we were playing in the creeks. Who gets to decide what “feminism” looks like? âParkersburg adopted me in 1975,â Deitzler said of his arrival in town. The chemical seeped into the water supplies of the communities of Lubeck and Little Hocking, immediately west of Parkersburg, and the city of Belpre, Ohio, just across the river; and three other water systems. Plaintiffs brought claims of PFOA (or C8) contamination of drinking water in six districts in two states near the DuPont Washington Works facility near Parkersburg, West Virginia. Where they should have been smooth, they looked ropy, covered with ridges. Hawkins asks this: Think about how loyal the people of the Parkersburg community have been to DuPont. âIâd rather watch squirrels run in the woodsâ than sit through most of what appears on the big screen, he said. âWhy would you leave the fight?â he said. In less than two years he had lost at least one hundred calves and more than fifty cows. (Courtesy Seth Freeman Photography), DuPont had been aware since at least the 1960s that C8 was toxic, nearly 70,000 of the 80,000 plaintiffs stopped into one of six clinics, Could the Ohio River have rights? She had a calf over there. Fighting for mussels: Experts are working to get to the bottom of their mysterious disappearances in the Ohio River watershed, The minds behind Louisvilleâs riverfront revival, The Ohio River community of Newport bands together to slow runoff and add greenspace, Rising waters: Aging levees, climate change and the challenge to hold back the Ohio River, Ever hear of a nurdle? But now it seemed they were ignoring him. The last movie he saw in a theater was the remake of âTrue Gritâ nearly a decade ago. the homes I see in Parkersburg would be 4 to 5 times the cost where i live. Because I was feeding her enough feed that she shoulda gained weight instead of losing weight. . That day had never come, so he decided he would make them watch a video. Why the insurrection at the Capitol was an economically significant moment, Pandemic could cause twice as much homelessness as the Great Recession, States spend more on security facing continued threat of violence, Security concerns take toll on pandemic-ravaged Washington businesses. Her hip and leg had to be amputated; she underwent 18 months of high-dose chemotherapy. The farmhouse stood at the foot of a sloping meadow that rose into a bald knob. He attributes this to the release of âDark Waters.â. Darlene said that when she and Joe are out around town, âthere are a lot of whispers behind your back. Earl had come to believe that its water was now poisoned — with what, he did not know. The companies settled about 3,550 personal injury claims arising from the leak of perfluorooctanoic acid, which is also known as PFOA or C-8, from its plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He panned again: a bonfire on a grassy slope, a pyre of logs as fat as garbage cans. It flowed through a corner of the three-hundred-acre farm, in a place Earl called “the holler.” A small valley cut between hillsides, the holler was where he moved the herd to graze throughout the summer. Hereâs what we learned. Recently, the cows had started charging, trying to kick him and butt him with their heads, as this one had before she died. (Photo by Lexi Browning/100 Days in Appalachia). “This cow died about twenty, thirty minutes ago,” Earl said. Even David-and-Goliath tales often have complicated backstories, and Joyce knows well that such is the case with Parkersburg and DuPont. Her stepfather wonders if one day his pension check will no longer arrive as a result of all the financial fallout. âThere was a misperception that we were trying to put DuPont out of business, and, of course, that was created intentionally by the people in Wilmington,â Deitzler said, referring to DuPontâs Delaware headquarters. Its dumping pits were unlined, designed for the disposal of nonhazardous waste—office paper and everyday trash. In the spring, he would run and catch the calves so his daughters could pet them. Her family has a âcomplicatedâ relationship with DuPont. The chemical company DuPont polluted water here over the course of decades. As a man, he had walked its banks with his wife. âWhen you have a community of that size, and youâve got several thousand people employed there, and multiply that by the families and their relatives â it’s very upsetting.â Some folks were unsure of what to make of Deitzler. The group looked at all existing studies and conducted new ones on 70,000 impacted community members from around the Parkersburg area. Parkersburg Utility Board's water system is the largest groundwater supplied municipal water system in West Virginia Danzey was a competitive swimmer growing up. âWhat would it look like if we packed up?â. Attached to it was a gallbladder that didn’t. Produced with support from the National Geographic Society and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. On the other side of his property line, Dry Run Landfill was filling up the little valley that had once belonged to his family. âWe all have stories of friends and family, neighbors, dying too young or being diagnosed with various medical problems,â Higgs said. “Somebody’s not doing their duty,” he said to the camera, to anyone who would listen. Hawkins was student body president of the Parkersburg High class of 1993. A DuPont spokesperson provided an overview of its financial and volunteer support initiatives and wrote that the company supports programs and organizations focused on revitalizing neighborhoods and enhancing quality of life; STEM-related initiatives in local schools; and âinitiatives that help protect the environment through clean-up or restoration efforts and allow for DuPont Washington Works to show we are a leader in minimizing our environmental footprint within the community.â. âYou grew up with the fear of DuPont leaving town,â said Ben Hawkins. Our water system is the largest groundwater supplied municipal water system in West Virginia. “I don’t understand them great big dark red places across there. âWhatâs next? Two of the Higgsâ most immediate neighbors died in their early 50s of renal cell cancer. His plaintiffs were customers of six water districts along the Ohio River on both the … They donât know what to say.â The experience has taken a toll â âthese people all looking at you as bringing this on them,â Joe said â but theyâve never considered leaving. Candace Jones, a neighbor and longtime friend of Roettgerâs, said she hates the perception that the community has been divided between the DuPonters and everyone else. Good River: Stories of the Ohio is a series about the environment, economy and culture of the Ohio River watershed, produced by seven nonprofit newsrooms. So the sentiment goes, he said, âYou take the good with the bad, right?â, But Danzey is unwilling. Radmanesh grew up less than a mile from the Washington Works plant. The case centered around several communities in West Virginia and southern Ohio, where a toxic chemical once used to make Teflon had leached into the water supply. DuPontâs own documentation specified that C8 was not to be flushed into surface waters, but the company did so for decades. It was discovered that the DuPont plant had contaminated the local water supply with perfluorooctanoic (PFOA) acid thus residents in the area are advised to drink … In 2004, DuPont paid $70 million in a class-action lawsuit and agreed to install filtration plants in the affected water districts. âI think itâs terrible, absolutely horrendous what happened because of decisions made for monetary gain. In this Aug. 1, 2018 photo, Lauren Woehr pours bottled water into her 16-month-old daughter Caroline's cup at their home in Horsham, Pa. At fifty-four, Earl was an imposing figure, six feet tall, lean and oxshouldered, with sandpaper hands and a permanent squint. The production of DuPont’s nonstick household products at the Washington Works facility resulted in environmental contamination. He didn’t believe it anymore. “There is about a teacup or so full of it — it’s a real dark yeller. Even though he sold them to be finished and slaughtered for beef, he didn’t have the heart to kill one himself, unless it had a broken leg and he needed to end its suffering. They would nuzzle him as he scratched their heads. Her brother has lupus and had colon cancer, and her sister-in-law has also been diagnosed with lupus. PARKERSBURG, W. Va. â Tommy Joyce is no cinephile. He was an excellent marksman, and his family had always had enough meat to eat. He marked each one on a calendar, a simple slash mark for each grotesque death. The stream looked like many other streams that flowed through his sprawling farm. âIâm not done yet,â Joe said. The Water Department, or Water Utility, provides potable tap water to residential customers, businesses, and others in Wood County. I was always in the water.â. Information submitted to the EPA as part of the investigation into C8 contamination near Parkersburg, West Virginia. Her calf, black and white, lay dead on its side in a circle of matted grass. Dry spells shrank it to a necklace of pools that winked with silver minnows. Its surface was matte with a crusty film that wrinkled against the shore. Fortunately, water consumers in the Mid-Ohio Valley have options thanks to the Leach et al class action lawsuit against DuPont over contamination at Washington Works near Parkersburg, West Virginia. “I fed her at least a gallon of grain a day. “That’s the water right there, underneath that foam,” the farmer said. Six leading pathologists from across the country were unable to identify the specific type of cancer. One tooth had an abscess so large he reckoned he could stick an ice pick clear under it. As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism. âHe just went to work every day; he provided for [his family].â, Jonesâ friend Janet Rayâs husband passed away 16 years ago from pancreatic cancer. It wasn’t just his cattle dying. Their innards smelled funny and were sometimes riddled with what looked to him like tumors. âThey said itâs very pathologically unusual.â Research has indicated to Danzey, whoâs a nurse, that pathologically unusual cancers are not uncommonly associated with industrial poisonings. At least that’s what his family had been told thirteen years before by the company that had bought their land. âWithout question, DuPont was the place to work in the Mid-Ohio Valley for a lot of years.â Many of his classmates grew up in DuPont families. âOh, Beth.ââ. He zoomed in. “You notice them dark place there, all down through? “See how that’s all wallered down? Subsequent tests would find that the level was actually above the cutoff. She was diagnosed with an atypical form of bone cancer in her right hip. In March 2002, Ken Ward Jr. reported in The Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette that DuPont “would replace drinking water for all Parkersburg-area residents whose water contains more than 14 parts per billion of a mysterious chemical called C-8.” (Some independent studies now say a safe level of exposure to PFOA in drinking water is 1 part per trillion.) In 2012, after seven years of study, the panel released a report documenting a probable link between C8 and six conditions: testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pregnancy-induced hypertension and high cholesterol. He walked there every day to count heads and check fences. Even down near the tips of it. âBy the end of the summer, the community was my family,â Deitzler said. The herd that had once been nearly three hundred head had dwindled to just about half that. Higgs graduated from Parkersburg High a year after Joyce, and Joyceâs mother, Barbara, taught him Sunday school. He was speaking to the camcorder pressed to his eye. Hawkins, who now lives in the Washington, D.C., area, views his Partners in Education experiences somewhat differently today: âIt wasnât a partnership; it was a page from a public relations playbook. It was small and ephemeral, fed by the rains that gathered in the creases of the ancient mountains that rumpled West Virginia and gave it those misty blue, almost-heaven vistas. He hardly ever saw minnows swimming in the creek anymore, except the ones that floated belly up. “It don’t do you any good to go to the DNR about it. What sort of positivity can come to that community? Cox was a big Ozzy Osbourne fan, and after a grueling regimen of chemo, Hawkins helped arrange backstage passes to a concert, where Osbourne pulled Cox near and shared his own familyâs experience with cancer. A thicker foam gathered in eddies, trembling like egg whites whipped into stiff peaks so high they sometimes blew off on a breeze.