Her eyes were sunk deep in her head. . It wasn’t just his cattle dying. “I think it’s terrible, absolutely horrendous what happened because of decisions made for monetary gain. It was a matter of “not wanting to bite the hand that fed you.”. In the flames, a calf lay broadside, burning. Taylor Sisk, a Nashville-based healthcare reporter, authored this story for 100 Days in Appalachia. In less than two years he had lost at least one hundred calves and more than fifty cows. (Photo by Lexi Browning/100 Days in Appalachia), Longtime resident Nancy Roettger characterizes the community’s reaction to the revelation of what DuPont had done as a “weird mix.”. “See how that’s all wallered down? Her stepfather wonders if one day his pension check will no longer arrive as a result of all the financial fallout. Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay. “When you have a community of that size, and you’ve got several thousand people employed there, and multiply that by the families and their relatives — it’s very upsetting.” Some folks were unsure of what to make of Deitzler. They were each paid $400. “Somebody’s not doing their duty,” he said to the camera, to anyone who would listen. Maybe if he filmed it, they could see for themselves and realize he was not just some crazy old farmer. Her white hide was crusted with diarrhea, and her hip bones tented her hide. The Kigers have spent the last two decades working to uncover the impacts and effects of C8 exposure in the region. The kidneys, too, looked abnormal. “I asked the prosecutor if he’d hire me as an assistant the next year, and he said, ‘Sure; you’ll get $6,000 a year.’ And I said, ‘That’ll be great.’”, “Most people thought I was a recovering alcoholic because I never drank a beer, because I couldn’t afford to buy one.” Three years later, at 27, he was appointed as prosecuting attorney. 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. “That’s the water right there, underneath that foam,” the farmer said. But “my heart hurts,” Tracewell said, to think that her daughter’s illnesses might be a consequence of all that. 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. Higgs graduated from Parkersburg High a year after Joyce, and Joyce’s mother, Barbara, taught him Sunday school. the homes I see in Parkersburg would be 4 to 5 times the cost where i live. “It’s like, they don’t want that frying pan anymore,” she said, “but they don’t want anything negative, and they’re very resentful of the people that stirred up the trouble.”. He sliced open the chest cavity, pulled out a lung, and turned the camera back on. Even David-and-Goliath tales often have complicated backstories, and Joyce knows well that such is the case with Parkersburg and DuPont. Did they think no one would notice? The cattle farmer stood at the edge of a creek that cut through a sun-dappled hollow. Higgs’ father has ulcerative colitis, and his brother received treatment for polycystic kidney disease in high school. Marketplace is a division of MPR's 501 (c)(3). As a boy, he had cooled his bare feet in this creek. “How would you like for your livestock to have to drink something like that?” he asked his imagined audience. He walked there every day to count heads and check fences. But now it seemed they were ignoring him. When her kids were growing up, when someone was hired at DuPont, “there was a celebration” — the good pay, the benefits, “and they did treat their employees well.”. They need it and they deserve it.”. I’ll do something about it.”. A science panel, comprised of public health scientists appointed by DuPont and lawyers representing the community, was convened to examine the immense database. Hard labor was his birthright. (Photo by Lexi Browning/100 Days in Appalachia), Tracy Danzey grew up in Parkersburg, West Virginia. 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 “I certainly hope it didn’t.”, Tracy Danzey was raised in the quiet of Vienna, there with the Rays, the Joneses, the Higgs family. What sort of positivity can come to that community? “It’s just like that other calf up yonder,” he said, panning over the matted grass. She now lives on the other side of the state, in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. 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. 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. He was an excellent marksman, and his family had always had enough meat to eat. In 2004, DuPont paid $70 million in a class-action lawsuit and agreed to install filtration plants in the affected water districts. One tooth had an abscess so large he reckoned he could stick an ice pick clear under it. But I don’t believe we can blame the everyday worker.” Her father-in-law worked in the Teflon division. Or does it? 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 new form of pollution could be coming to the Ohio River, Video: On the most populated Ohio River island, this beekeeper found a way to better himself and his community, Fighting pollution and apathy on the Lower Ohio, it’s not easy being a Southern Indiana Waterkeeper, What the petrochemical buildout along the Ohio River means for regional communities and beyond, Tracing water, memory and change: Black experiences along and near Route 65, One Ohio River town that’s using outdoor recreation to boost its economy, 360 degrees of the Cheat River: A journey to revitalization on an Ohio River tributary, Highlights of the Ohio: Explore our interactive map, That's vinegar: The Ohio River's history of contamination and progress made, The water is cleaner but the politics are messier: A look back at the Clean Water Act movement after 50 years, Video: Paddling 300 miles to protect the waters of Ohi:yo', the 'good river'. “They said it’s very pathologically unusual.” Research has indicated to Danzey, who’s a nurse, that pathologically unusual cancers are not uncommonly associated with industrial poisonings. That looks a little bit like cancer to me.”. He zoomed out and panned over to an industrial pipe spewing froth into the creek. A DuPont Teflon producing plant operated near Parkersburg, and that plant has been identified as the likely source. A federal jury has returned a $2 million verdict against DuPont in the third of 3,500 cases charging that DuPont knowingly contaminated drinking water at its facility near Parkersburg. Recently, the cows had started charging, trying to kick him and butt him with their heads, as this one had before she died. 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 water’s safe. The state vet wouldn’t even come out to the farm. But the federal government says C8 levels it once overlooked in the water are … Who gets to decide what “feminism” looks like? “There were women that immediately went out and changed their frying pans,” Roettger said. “I don’t understand them great big dark red places across there. His earlier efforts had all revealed unpleasant surprises: tumors, abnormal organs, unnatural smells. He panned again: a bonfire on a grassy slope, a pyre of logs as fat as garbage cans. 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 “initiatives 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.”. But there’s a film that opened Dec. 5 at the Regal Cinemas at Grand Central Mall that’s attracting a lot of attention in his community. 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. 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. Dark Waters is a 2019 American legal thriller film directed by Todd Haynes and written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan.The story dramatizes Robert Bilott's case against the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont after they contaminated a town with unregulated chemicals. 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. Now it looked like dirty dishwater. This summer cars lined up in Vienna, a town of about 10,000 situated along the Ohio River. And I’m gonna cut her open and find out what caused her to die. 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. The outcome of the class action lawsuit also funded a 70,000-person health study into the effects of PFOA exposure. 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. Even down near the tips of it. (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? Though Chemours, a spinoff company of DuPont, now operates the Washington Works plant, DuPont maintains a presence in the community. Well-paying jobs, great benefits, Little League sponsorships, investments in the arts — but at a cost. Anyone could see that something was terribly wrong, not only with the landfill itself but with the agencies responsible for monitoring it. The Wood County Water Department, located in Parkersburg, WV, is an utility company that operates the public water system. He knows, of course, the distinction between correlation and causation. Sometimes the cattle watered at a spring-fed bathtub trough at the farthest end of the field, but mostly they drank from Dry Run. It’s unfair, Higgs said, that a community should have to perpetually ask what exactly it has been exposed to, and where and when the consequences will end. The problem, he thought, was not what they were eating but what they were drinking. Joe, a physical education teacher, is now quite well known in the community for having raised awareness of the dangers of C8 — called “the devil’s piss” by some — in local water supplies. Her dad suffers from discoid lupus, causing sores the size of 50-cent pieces on his forehead. Joyce said he’s heard more about his community’s long struggle with corporate environmental malfeasance in the past few weeks than in his previous two and a half years in office. Attached to it was a gallbladder that didn’t. Its head was tipped back at an awkward angle. “I love West Virginia,” she said. Parkersburg Utility Board's water system is the largest groundwater supplied municipal water system in West Virginia © 2021 Minnesota Public Radio. “But the point I want to make, and make it real clear,” he said, zooming in, “that’s the mouth of Dry Run.”. The first thing I’m gonna do is cut this head open, check these teeth.”. 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. Thunderstorms occasionally swelled the creek so much that he couldn’t wade across it. In 2015, DuPont spun off its chemical division into a new company called Chemours, which now occupies the Washington Works facility on the Ohio. Dry Run used to flow gin clear. Danzey is among those who believe that in regard to perceptions of DuPont in the Parkersburg community, there’s a generational divide: Those in their 40s and younger tend to hold a less charitable view than baby boomers and their parents. “They know what happened.” They allow her “to sit in this truth regardless of how it affects them.” That means a lot. “It don’t do you any good to go to the DNR about it. That day had never come, so he decided he would make them watch a video. A lawyer’s efforts to reveal chemical contamination around DuPont’s facility in Parkersburg, West Virginia, will hit theaters later this month. Darlene said that when she and Joe are out around town, “there are a lot of whispers behind your back. In 2005, it reached a $16.5 million settlement with the EPA for violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act. “It’s hard to look back at that time now and see it as idyllic,” Danzey said. The production of DuPont’s nonstick household products at the Washington Works facility resulted in environmental contamination. The carcasses lay where they fell. Her family has a “complicated” relationship with DuPont. The farmhouse stood at the foot of a sloping meadow that rose into a bald knob. Because that’s what will happen.’” Her mom’s response was, “‘Oh, Beth.’ That’s it. 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 couldn’t quite place it. . Secret tests conducted in 1984 by the DuPont chemical company found a Teflon-related contaminant (C8) in the tap water of the Little Hocking Water Association in Ohio, just across the river from the company’s Teflon plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. “What’s next? He had stopped feeding his family venison from the deer he shot on his land. But company executives failed to inform the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] or the public. “That’s home and always will be home,” Hawkins said of Parkersburg. 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. “We’re a community and we all need each other,” Jones said. “Dark Waters” — a legal thriller starring Mark Ruffalo, with a script inspired by a 2016 New York Times article — tells the epic story of the DuPont corporation’s 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. 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. The Water Department, or Water Utility, provides potable tap water to residential customers, businesses, and others in Wood County. Subsequent tests would find that the level was actually above the cutoff. Six leading pathologists from across the country were unable to identify the specific type of cancer. 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. “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. The group looked at all existing studies and conducted new ones on 70,000 impacted community members from around the Parkersburg area. She was diagnosed with an atypical form of bone cancer in her right hip. Now it was filled with specimens you might find in a pathology lab. In the spring, he would run and catch the calves so his daughters could pet them. His mother’s grandfather had bought this land, and it was the only home he had ever known. Whatever had killed this cow appeared to have eaten her from the inside out. He remembers DuPont’s participation in his school’s Partners in Education program and riding in parades on DuPont-sponsored floats. So the sentiment goes, he said, “You take the good with the bad, right?”, But Danzey is unwilling. Not even buzzards and scavengers would eat them. He hardly ever saw minnows swimming in the creek anymore, except the ones that floated belly up. The position didn’t pay enough to cover his room and board, so he took a job in a bar called Friar Tuck’s. 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. He didn’t believe it anymore. People were picking up jugs and cases of bottled water. Earl loved his cows, and the cows loved Earl. At PUB, our utility systems serve greater Parkersburg with 32,000+/- residents, and will continue to serve the future needs of our community. What’s next for the community, and where does this end? ‘Oh, Beth.’”. “This cow died about twenty, thirty minutes ago,” Earl said. He now serves as mayor of the city of Parkersburg — population: 30,000. The chemical had seeped into the water supply of at least six public water systems in West Virginia and Ohio. Parkersburg is subject to significant penalties for … He’s heard, “If DuPont leaves, we’re done. “DuPont has been in the Ohio Valley for 70-plus years, and has been a tremendous employer,” he said. Candace Jones, a neighbor and longtime friend of Roettger’s, said she hates the perception that the community has been divided between the DuPonters and everyone else. There likewise appears to be a generational divide in willingness to drink the water, despite the filtration installed as a result of the settlement. At least that’s what his family had been told thirteen years before by the company that had bought their land. He marked each one on a calendar, a simple slash mark for each grotesque death. The Federal EPA has designated Parkersburg as a “MS4” (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) storm water community. “Parkersburg adopted me in 1975,” Deitzler said of his arrival in town. He and his wife, Darlene, joined the class-action suit that was settled in 2004. They would nuzzle him as he scratched their heads. Bubbles formed as it tumbled over stones in a sudsy film. Bilott’s class action lawsuit centers on the water contamination from PFOA, which DuPont started using to produce its nonstick coating Teflon at its Parkersburg plant in 1951. Dry spells shrank it to a necklace of pools that winked with silver minnows. But the high incidence of a range of diseases has staggered this community. “By the end of the summer, the community was my family,” Deitzler said. “Why would you leave the fight?” he said. Because I was feeding her enough feed that she shoulda gained weight instead of losing weight. Sure, he paddles in it, but “I try not to get it on me” and never swims in it. The tongue looked normal, but some of the teeth were coal black, interspersed with the white ones like piano keys. In 2004, DuPont paid $70 million in a class-action lawsuit and agreed to install filtration plants in the affected water districts. It wasn’t his first. “That’s the largest gall I ever saw in my life! He panned the camera a few degrees. Deitzler was involved in settling the C8 groundwater contamination suit against DuPont in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Report contains detailed information on the Tennant lawsuit. When not competing, “we were on the river … we were playing in the creeks. His plaintiffs were customers of six water districts along the Ohio River on both the … “There is about a teacup or so full of it — it’s a real dark yeller. They just turn their back and walk on,” he told the camera. The plaintiff, John M. Wolf of Parkersburg, claims that PFOA in his drinking water caused him to develop ulcerative colitis. DuPont settled the suit in 2004 making provisions for water filtration, medical monitoring, and potential personal injury claims if the controversial substance could be scientifically linked to human disease. DuPont scientists were aware in the early 1990s of links to cancerous tumors from C8 exposure. PFAS are […] Its dumping pits were unlined, designed for the disposal of nonhazardous waste—office paper and everyday trash. There’s a lot, Joe said, that DuPont hasn’t yet been held accountable for. That’s very unusual. "We’ve been through hell over the last 20 years," Joe Kiger said. Her hip and leg had to be amputated; she underwent 18 months of high-dose chemotherapy. 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. PARKERSBURG, W. Va. – Tommy Joyce is no cinephile. Black smoke curled into the daylight. Earl had sought help, but no one would step up. She was diagnosed with an atypical form of bone cancer in her right hip. The chemical company, DuPont, manufactures products in its Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The olive green water had a greenish brown foam encrusting the grassy bank. “What would it look like if we packed up?”. “I fed her at least a gallon of grain a day. Joe and Darlene Kiger live just a few miles from where Radmanesh grew up. People who didn’t know him very well called him Wilbur, but friends and family called him Earl. We all want the best for that community … whatever form that can take.”. “Isn’t that lovely?”. He knew the folks at the DNR, because they gave him a special permit to hunt on his land out of season. But Radmanesh said her mom is a proponent of bringing another controversial industry to the valley: fracking for natural gas. This excerpt was provided courtesy of Atria Books. In another field, a grown cow lay dead. PARKERSBURG — The number of Americans impacted by contamination from fluorinated chemicals is much worse than previously estimated, an environmental organization said on Wednesday. It’s something I have never run into before.”, He reached back into the cow and pulled out a liver that looked about right. 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. When he cut out the other lung, he noted dark purple splotches where they should have been fluffy and pink. The calf was engulfed in a black, humming mist. “He just went to work every day; he provided for [his family].”, Jones’ friend Janet Ray’s husband passed away 16 years ago from pancreatic cancer. He’d come for a summer internship in the prosecuting attorney’s office. “This is the hundred and seventh calf that’s met this problem right here. Sometimes it ran so dry he’d find them glittering dead in the mud. Harry Deitzler served as a lead attorney, among others, in representing the Kigers and tens of thousands of others in the class-action suit. Doctors couldn’t trace the cause of the cancer, but Danzey believes it was caused by exposure to industrial waste in the waters of Parkersburg that she drank and swam in. 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. Dry Run was less than a mile’s walk from the home place, across Lee Creek, through an open field, and along a pair of tire tracks. “Without question, DuPont was the place to work in the Mid-Ohio Valley for a lot of years.” Many of his classmates grew up in DuPont families. “We came from that community and that community did a lot to shape us. Cox, Hawkins and Higgs were among a pack of guys who ran together in high school and stayed close after. As a father, he had watched his little girls splash around in its shallow ripples.