Stop Drinking Dark Water
If you grew up with me, and you haven’t yet seen the movie, “Dark Waters”, run to see it. Especially if, like me, you left West Virginia, and didn’t look back. We have to look back; something buried in our past could yet kill us. And if you’re still there, well, you already know what I’m talking about.
I cannot remember being as badly shaken by a film as I was by “Dark Waters”. But then, I never had a filmmaker disclose to me that I spent my youth being unknowingly exposed to hazardous chemicals in the water I drank, and the river I grew up swimming, fishing, and skiing in.
For those who are unaware of what I am talking about, “Dark Waters” is the story of the investigation into Dupont’s dumping of C8 (PFOA - perfluorooctanoic acid) into the ground and waters around the Washington Works plant at Parkersburg, WV, and into a “landfill” there they purchased for the purpose of cleaning up their own property.
For some people, the effects of C8 have been deadly. Others are living with a lifetime of complications. I was shaken, and tears welled up in my eyes when they discussed C8’s effects on teeth. I have always had problems with mine; like most of us I blamed myself. Bad genes, bad brushing, bad diet, not flossing enough – I always felt ashamed about all the ways I could come up with to blame myself. Sitting in that dark theater, I was suddenly struck with the thought, “Maybe it’s not my fault.”
For those of you still living in the Parkersburg area, well, this is not news. According to the film, nearly 70,000 of you had blood tests, which was instrumental in linking C8 to several cancers and other diseases. And we still don’t know the long-term effects of C8 and several other “forever” chemicals on human health or the environment.
I could go on and on about the dangers of treating our precious, fragile planet like a dumping ground based on scientific and environmental reasons. But that’s not my wheelhouse. What has me spun up is the morality of the people involved.
Dupont knew as early as 1961 that there were problems with C8. Yet it persisted not only in producing Teflon products, but it also used its own employees as lab rats, lacing cigarettes and giving them to workers in 1962 (nearly all were sickened), and quietly pulling women from the line when 2 of 7 pregnancies ended up producing children with birth defects. By 1973, Dupont had determined there was no safe level of PFOA/C8 for animals. And yet, when they discovered C8 in local tap water in 1984, it took them 17 YEARS to inform the water suppliers.
Dupont appears from the historical record to have been willing to sacrifice the health of its own workers, and that of the local communities around its manufacturing sites, not to mention the unknown risks to the larger population, in order to continue enjoying uninterrupted profits from Teflon. It was just too much money for them to turn away from.
Except that it wasn’t.
No amount of money is worth poisoning your co-workers. No amount of money is worth poisoning your neighbors. No amount of money is worth poisoning your planet. And no amount of money is worth doing all that knowingly, and selling your soul in the bargain. And it doesn’t matter that you can “get away with it”. Trust me, folks, ending up paying out the tiny fraction of the profits they were forced to pay after dragging sick and dying people though the court system compared to all the money they’ve made over all the years they’ve sold Teflon, not to mention not one day in jail served by one Dupont executive WAS getting away with it. So, although Dupont will protest that they were “held accountable”, the honest truth is that like so many corporations, so many of the rich and powerful, they got away with murder, and made big bucks in the process.
The sad truth, my friends, is THAT has become the American way. There is a set of rules that apply to the rich, the powerful, the corporate interests that can buy politicians and employ enough lawyers to out-sue the aggrieved “little guys”, and then there’s everybody else. They are the predators; we are the prey. Perhaps a better analogy is that they are the harvesters; we are the chaff that falls away once they have extracted the grain – the value; the money. And they have no moral compunction at all to not cause us harm in their pursuit of ever more and more money. We are expendable.
And it has ever been this way, as long as human history has made records. Slaves built the pyramids. Aboriginal peoples, including the Native Americans, were murdered and cheated out of their lands, their one source of wealth. Slaves were dragged in chains to work the cotton fields of the old South, and poor immigrants were sent to the mines. And it mattered not a whit to the rich, as long as they got what they wanted – money, nor in large part to the governments who were supposed to stand between the evil and the weak. No, those governments knew (and know) what side their bread is buttered on. One only needs to look at how the American government today has been stacking the deck in favor of the rich and powerful, especially since the Reagan years, although the tendency to give powerful corporate interests a pass goes much further back, as “Dark Waters” illustrates all too well.
So, friends, here’s where we come in. We, the vast majority of humanity, who actually care about our neighbors and children and planet. We have to stop acting like prey. We have to stop standing still for the harvesters bearing the scythes. We have to stop accepting business as usual; government as it has been, and begin demanding better. We are the government. We are the economy. Each of us has to stop looking the other way, and start holding people, corporations, our governmental bodies and most of all, OURSELVES accountable – REALLY accountable.
Friends, you want to know something frightening? You have C8 in your bloodstream right now. 3M, the company that first discovered it, tried to do studies on human blood that wasn’t tainted with it. They couldn’t find any from living people – they finally found some samples from Korean War soldiers that were untainted. It is that ubiquitous. Polar bears have it in their livers. It is everywhere, and it won’t go away. This is what happens when people think greed is good. But it’s not good – it’s evil. And that evil is the dark water that we are all drinking.