‘Dark Waters’ continues to ripple with West Virginia lawmakers

CHARLESTON — A group in the West Virginia House of Delegates will hold a press conference on Monday to announce legislation spurred by the release of the movie “Dark Waters.”

The film is about a Wood County farmer who documented the death of his cows and lawyer Bob Bilott, who took on DuPont and the C8 contamination from the Washington Works Plant. A science panel that studied the health data of around 70,000 residents in the region found a probable link between C8 and six diseases in humans.

A press conference will be held 10 a.m. Monday in the Governor’s Press Room in the Capitol. The press conference also will be live streamed on the Facebook page of Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia.

The press conference will follow a Nov. 19 letter signed by Republican members of the House of Delegates criticizing the movie they said reinforced unfair Appalachian stereotypes. The letter was written to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform that held a hearing on PFAS chemicals.

Hansen and other members in the House will sponsor a bill he said will protect West Virginians and avoid future human health impacts and lawsuits.

The bill will require the identification of sources of the chemicals to prevent contamination of rivers and streams used as drinking water and require the development of science-based clean-drinking water standards that public water systems will need to meet to keep their customers safe. It will address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also called PFAS, of which C8 and its successor GenX are of the same family. C8 was once used by DuPont to make Teflon.

“We owe it to the people who were sickened, and to the family members of those who were killed, to properly regulate these toxic chemicals,” Hansen said. “We’re taking a systematic approach to identify and reduce the sources of these chemicals so that we can ensure that tap water is clean.”

Many businesses closed after the Freedom Industries spill in 2014 that contaminated water sources, Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said. Some have never reopened, according to Pushkin.

“You cannot tell me that we are forced to choose between economic growth and clean water. That’s a lie,” he said. “Economic growth, any growth, requires clean, safe water.”

Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said either conservative, moderate or liberal, “citizens want clean drinking water. From Harpers Ferry to Huntington and from Weirton to Welch, clean tap water tops the charts on every survey I’ve seen.”

Hansen, the lead sponsor of the new bill, said delegates also will re-introduce House Joint Resolution 25, which was first introduced in the 2019 legislative session. The resolution called for a constitutional amendment adding a section to the West Virginia Bill of Rights that states people have a right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment.”

Thirty-two of the 100 delegates co-sponsored the resolution. Similar provisions are in the Pennsylvania and Montana constitutions, Hansen said.

Speakers on Monday will include Hansen, Doyle and Pushkin; Tracy Danzey, who lost her leg and part of her hip due to these chemicals; Angie Rosser, director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition; and Maya van Rossum, author of the book “The Green Amendment.”


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