LEGAL THRILLER: Mark Ruffalo plays corporate defence attorney Robert Bilott in Dark Waters.

Dark Waters

  • Drama-true story; Cert M, contains offensive language and content that may disturb; 2hrs 7mins
  • Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, Bill Pullman and William Jackson Harper
  • Director: Todd Haynes

IF we needed further proof that corporations do not care about people, the film Dark Waters provides the ultimate argument for corporate controls.

This film is based on the true story of DuPont’s unregulated dumping of a toxic chemical into a town’s water table because they were able to convince the Government the chemical was safe despite it never being tested.

The story’s hero – real-life lawyer Robert Billot, who endangered his partnership in his law firm to champion those poisoned by DuPont – is played by activist-actor Mark Ruffalo (Avengers).

Approached by a desperate farmer whose cattle died with unusual medical conditions such as bloated organs, blackened teeth, and tumours, Robert files a suit so he can gain information about the unknown chemicals dumped on the site.

When he finds nothing useful in the report, he realises the chemicals might not be regulated.

DuPont sends Robert hundreds of boxes of documents, hoping to bury the evidence. Yet he finds numerous references to PFOA, a chemical with no mention in any medical textbook.

He later discovers the chemical is used to manufacture Teflon and is found in many homes worldwide.

DuPont ran tests for decades, finding that it caused cancer and birth defects, but did not make the findings public. The company also dumped hundreds of gallons of the toxic sludge upriver from many West Virginia farms.

Since PFOA is not regulated, Robert’s legal team argues the corporation is liable, as the amount in the water was higher than levels deemed safe by DuPont’s own internal documents.

DuPont claims its later study found that 150 parts per billion is safe. The locals protest and the story becomes national news. DuPont agrees to settle for $70 million.

As part of the agreement, DuPont is required to carry out medical monitoring only if scientists prove that PFOA caused the ailments.

Seven years pass with no result from the study. The original farmer who complained is dead and Robert becomes destitute following several pay cuts.

Eventually, scientists prove that the chemical causes cancers and other diseases but DuPont reneges on the settlement agreement and Robert decides to take each defendant’s case to court one at a time.

7/10

mark.rieder@thebeacon.co.nz