Eight Pages in the New York Times?
Five Excerpts That Might Change Your Life.
Happy 2016 from the entire Mrs. Green’s World team! Sorry to hit you with such a heavy topic for the New Year but this one had to be written…
On my evening walk tonight I called my friend Claire to check in on her after her undergoing a particularly complicated surgery. I mentioned that I had to go home to write and that for some strange reason, a topic was not sitting in my brain as it usually is. Claire to the rescue and I may never forgive her. “Well, I have something for you. Go home and read the EIGHT PAGE article in this Sunday’s New York Times magazine section about DuPont. A lawyer took them on for poisoning people and animals over a decade ago and he is winning.” Game on.
Meet Rob Bilott. He was a corporate defense attorney for eight years. Then he took on an environmental suit because of a great childhood memory and a connection to his grandmother. Taking on the suit would upend his entire career and expose a brazen, shocking, unthinkable, egregious, decades-long history of chemical pollution by DuPont.
I wish I had some good statistics on how many of you reading this will be inspired to read the article in its entirety. I can only hope that there will be many, because you care about your health and because I want you to be as upset and angry as I am. Know better, do better or misery loves company? You get to decide.
Here are five excerpts that hopefully will whet your appetite and inspire you to MAKE the time.
- Quote from a farmer whose cows were suddenly dying left and right ”I’ve taken two dead deer and two dead cattle off this ripple,” Tennant says in voice-over. ”The blood run out of their noses and out their mouths. … They’re trying to cover this stuff up. But it’s not going to be covered up, because I’m going to bring it out in the open for people to see.”
- Quote on Bilott’s actions after his first meeting with a farming family: “Bilott watched the video that farmer brought to his law firm and looked at photographs for several hours. He saw cows with stringy tails, malformed hooves, giant lesions protruding from their hides and red, receded eyes; cows suffering constant diarrhea, slobbering white slime the consistency of toothpaste, staggering bowlegged like drunks.. ”This cow’s done a lot of suffering,” he would say, as a blinking eye filled the screen.”
- The great discovery that would change everything: “With the trial looming, Bilott stumbled upon a letter DuPont had sent to the E.P.A. that mentioned a substance at the landfill with a cryptic name: ”PFOA.” In all his years working with chemical companies, Bilott had never heard of PFOA. It did not appear on any list of regulated materials, nor could he find it in Taft’s in-house library. The chemistry expert that he had retained for the case did, however, vaguely recall an article in a trade journal about a similar-sounding compound: PFOS, a soaplike agent used by the technology conglomerate 3M in the fabrication of Scotchgard.” (Mrs. Green note – PFOA is a chemical used in the making of Teflon – as in the Teflon pans I used for years.)
- One description of DuPont’s disposal of this harmful chemical: “The company dumped 7,100 tons of PFOA-laced sludge into ”digestion ponds”: open, unlined pits on the Washington Works property, from which the chemical could seep straight into the ground. PFOA entered the local water table, which supplied drinking water to the communities of Parkersburg, Vienna, Little Hocking and Lubeck – more than 100,000 people in all.”
- DuPont’s reaction when they realized that Bilott was on to them and had the facts to back it up: ”DuPont freaked out when they realized that this guy was onto them,” says Ned McWilliams, a young trial lawyer who later joined Bilott’s legal team. ”For a corporation to seek a gag order to prevent somebody from speaking to the E.P.A. is an extraordinary remedy. You could realize how bad that looks. They must have known that there was a small chance of winning. But they were so afraid that they were willing to roll the dice.”
Bonus quote to entice you to read the article because this one is all about YOU!
“This advisory level, if indeed announced, might be a source of comfort to future generations. But if you are a sentient being reading this article in 2016, you already have PFOA in your blood. It is in your parents’ blood, your children’s blood, your lover’s blood. How did it get there? Through the air, through your diet, through your use of nonstick cookware, through your umbilical cord. Or you might have drunk tainted water.”