“Dark Waters” Highlights the Need for Stronger Water Protections

A new major motion picture, Dark Waters, tells the story of how dangerous pollution from a chemical manufacturer poisoned drinking water and thousands of West Virginians. It’s a cautionary tale and a timely one. Right now, within West Virginia’s water quality standards the rule that limits waterborne toxins in our water, called human health criteria, is based on outdated science and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is deciding whether they should adopt new limits based on the most recent science. You can learn more here.

Dark Waters, staring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, is based on the real-life toxic contamination of Washington, WV, a small Ohio River community just outside of Parkersburg, by chemical manufacturer DuPont. For years, DuPont polluted Washington’s drinking water source with dangerous chemicals known as polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. After years of mysterious deaths and illnesses, a class action lawsuit was brought against DuPont for their negligence.

The general public was largely unaware of the dangers PFAS have on human health and well-being. However, because of the class action lawsuit, DuPont was mandated to conduct a large-scale study on PFAS exposure.

Known as the C8 Science Panel, researchers found a link between drinking water exposure to a PFAS chemical called C8 and six serious ailments: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy induced hypertension (including preeclampsia) and hypercholesterolemia.

No film can completely capture the complexity of what happened in Washington, WV. But the story told in Dark Waters is an important one. Citizens were poisoned by a chemical manufacturer’s discharge of toxins into drinking water supplies and it can happen again. Right now, the state is playing with fire as it delays adoption of updated human health criteria. By listening to chemical manufactures who say it will costs too much to reduce the amount of toxins they dump into our water, the state is depending on outdated science to protect our health. WVDEP must update our water quality standard’s human health criteria with more protective limits – our water and our health depend on it.

Dark Waters will be released to theaters everywhere on

December 6.

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