PARKERSBURG — An episode about C8 in the Mid-Ohio Valley will be part of a series airing next month on the National Geographic Channel.
The series will begin on March 21 to coincide with World Water Day on March 22. The episode on C8 “Parched: Toxic Waters” will air 9-10 p.m. March 28.
C8, also known as PFOA, was once used at the DuPont Washington Works, now owned and operated by the spinoff company Chemours. A science panel created by the 2005 settlement of a class action lawsuit over the presence of C8 in local water supplies studied the health data from 70,000 residents in the region and found a possible link between the chemical and six diseases in humans.
From the settlement, carbon filters were installed to remove C8 from the drinking water of six public systems. A system was installed last year in Vienna by Chemours after the Environmental Protection Agency established a lifetime health advisory of 0.07 parts per billion. The previous health advisory was 0.4 ppb.
The National Geographic press release describes “Parched: Toxic Waters,” directed by Johanna Hamilton, as follows: “In West Virginia, a cattle farmer traces the deterioration of his livestock to illegal dumping on the Ohio River in the 1980s, unraveling a corporate conspiracy by DuPont that leaves thousands at risk.”
The show also includes a story about Central Valley in California, where oil companies allegedly caused water contamination in agricultural areas.
The story starts with Wilbur Tennant and the death of his cattle that grazed in a pasture next to land he sold to DuPont.
“As awareness of C8 landfills and other contamination sites spreads, we expect that what started with the Tennants’ farm nearly two decades ago will continue around the globe,” said Jeffrey Dugas of Keep Your Promises DuPont, a group dedicated to making sure DuPont covers damages from the contamination. “Just last year, residents in Vienna found out that their water is also contaminated, and we expect that the Valley is just the tip of the iceberg. Communities downstream, communities near landfills and communities near other contamination sites may soon have a similar rude awakening about their drinking water.”
Dan Turner, of DuPont corporate media relations, said the company has not seen the completed series and could not comment. However, the company provided the following information to the producers:
“PFOA, or C8, is a processing aid that was widely used by many manufacturers to produce a broad range of industrial and consumer products for more than 60 years. Over the same period, the chemical industry and its regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have also learned a great deal about the environmental and potential health impacts of PFOA, leading to the complete elimination of PFOA usage in 2015. DuPont studied PFOA carefully for decades and promptly notified federal, state regulatory and local authorities of its findings.
“Knowledge about PFOA continues to evolve. Nevertheless, at no time during the period PFOA was released from the DuPont Washington Works facility did anyone at DuPont ever believe it was likely to harm anyone. These releases complied with the law and occurred with the full knowledge of regulators.
“Because of the biopersistence of PFOA, DuPont voluntarily tested the water in communities surrounding Washington Works to ascertain levels of PFOA in the water. When it detected PFOA that exceeded conservative guidelines, it took responsible steps to remediate. In addition, we fully funded filtering systems in six water districts to levels of non-detection, well below any established guideline. DuPont also voluntarily convened community advisory panels and discussed with community representatives the issue of PFOA in drinking water and what was then known about potential PFOA health effects.”
Dr. Paul Brooks of Vienna, whose company Brookmar organized and conducted the health study for the science panel, was among the local residents interviewed for the segment. One interview session lasted around four hours, he said.
Brooks said he hasn’t seen a preview of the segment. Brooks, citing scientific studies that maintain no level of C8 in the blood is safe, said he hopes the National Geographic show will encourage people to take action.
“You never know what they’re going to include,” said Brooks.
Three things need to happen, Brooks said: All sources of C8 regardless of size must be eliminated; everyone with C8 in their blood regardless of level will need medical monitoring paid for by the companies; and legislation and regulations are needed to require that before such chemicals are used, they undergo testing much like that done by the pharmaceutical industry.
“What we’ve learned is that awareness is crucial, and when the community gets involved and the press covers the issue, no company — not DuPont, not Chemours — can hide their harmful behavior any longer,” Dugas said. “We have a long way to go, including cleaning up the Ohio River, containing and cleaning up contamination from landfill sites spread out across the Valley, and making sure that the new C-8, GenX, isn’t just history repeating itself.”