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tv   2020 Savannah Book Festival  CSPAN  February 15, 2020 11:31am-12:28pm EST

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[inaudible conversations] >> delighted to welcome you to 13th annualual savannah book festival, david and nancy and nancy foundation, we are especially grateful, sponsors for glorious venue, the trinity united methodist church. through support that we are able to make festival events this saturday free to the public. 90% of our revenue comes from donovers and members, we thank
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you. this year's festival is full of great events and we don't want you to miss any of them. if you haven't downloaded new savannah book festival, you can now and you will get to know everything you want to know about the festival. if you need more information downloading the app, you can find it in the back of your program. before we get started i'd like to have -- i'd like to remind of a housekeeping notes, first of all, we would like you to please remove your hats, you are in a church, we would like you to re move your hats. don't miss out. if your plan is for next author, please move forward to fill seat s as the venue empties, the ushers need to count seats that
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are available and allow easy ces , please take a moment to turn off your cell phone now so it doesn't disrupt the presentation, i've done mine and please do yours. we ask you to not use flash photography. you will see fellow with buckets and they will be accepting doe flaicións, -- donations, but if you're saving your cash for treats at the food trucks, you can always donate through our app or website. please help us to continue sharing the love of books with the public. we will have an opportunity for questions and answers, there's a mic up here, form a line and come and ask questions, we would love to have you, please use the mic. courtesy of michael, robert
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block is partner and practiced environmental law and litigation for more than 28 years, he's a former chair of the cincinnati bar association's environmental law committee and graduate of the new college with ba and ohio state university of law. cum laude, robert received live lihood award commonly alternative nobel prize for years of work on pfoa, please give a warm savannah welcome to rob blot. [applause] [applause] >> good morning. good morning. thank you so much for inviting me here. i want to thank everyone with the book festival, this is an
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amazing event and i'm honored to be here, you know, it's really moving for me to be part of this group, i'm looking through all of the other folks that are here , and you're wondering, this guy is a lawyer. you know what's going on here. and that's what i want to talk about today, is why i ended up writing this book, exposure and what's the story about and why i believe it's an important story for all of us. most of the people in the room have probably heard of flint, michigan and the lead crisis, right? i'm curious how many people heard of substances? some, good. you know, i think most of us realized that we turn on the television, we are watching the news, we saw nonstop coverage of the flint, michigan lead crisis
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for a good reason, we had contaminated water, children drinking contaminated water, all national news networks, 24/7 coverage yet what we are going to be talking about is con tam -- contamination that spans the entire planet and have been going on for decades and affect ing everyone not just in one city, not just in one country but the entire planet. we are talking about chemicals now that are in the air and water all over the globe and likely in the flood of every person in this room and every person listening today. in the blood of children, babies , as they are born. we are talking about an un precedented global contamination that has gone under the radar for decades. there hasn't really been much
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talk about this at all. most people were completely una ware that these chemicals existed. most people still remain unaware of the chemicals. and so i wanted to really try to put that story together to try to explain and help people understand how did that happen, how does this something like this happen in the united states during our lifetime and this is not a story of something that happened back in 1900's, i mean, this is modern day contamination going on worldwide that we are all pretty much completely una ware of. and unfortunately it's a story that involves effort frankly to keep that information from the rest of us. how does that happen? you know, how does something like that occur? you know, this started for me about 20 years ago. i started practicing law in 1990
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, started with the law firm in cincinnati, ohio, i was doing primarily corporate defense work , representing big chemical companies and other corporations that were trying to figure out how how do we comply with state and federal and environmental laws and how to help them manage that system. so for the next 8 years, i work ed within that system, all the different rules and regulations that identified all the toxic has adder -- hazardous chemicals and as long as we were getting right permits, complying with rules and limits and standards for identified regulated materials, hopefully things were okay and that we were protecting the environment and we were doing what was required to prevent unnecessary risks and harm to folks. the world i lived in for 8 years
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, one day i got a call on my telephone at work and the man on the other end of the line started rattling on about cows dying on his property, had no idea why he was calling me, this is not what i did and i was about to hang up the phone when he mentioned i got your name from your grandmother. [laughter] >> so at that swing i decided i would listen and try to figure out why was he calling me and how did this relate to my grandmother, what he explained was he was raising cows on property outside of parkersburg west virginia and he was having trouble with over 100 of his animals had died. he was watching them waste away, tomb -- tumors and wasn't just cows, beer -- deer, fish, and he
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had gone to anyone he could think of; in town, the epa, the federal epa, the company that he believed was responsible for causing this and what he told me was, he owned property right next to a landfill and he could see white foaming water coming out of the landfill pulling into a creek that animals drank out of, these animals would stand in the water, drink foaming water and he was convinced something is in the white foaming water and why wouldn't anybody pay attention to him or listen to him, then he explained, well, the landfill was owned by dupont company and it so happened that dupont operated one of the largest manufacturing plants in that town, right up the river, a few miles away where most of the people in that community either worked there, knew somebody that worked there, related to somebody in that town, when they
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-- when this farmer had gone, hey, i think dupont is causing a problem here, people were shut ting him down, didn't want to talk about it, told him to go talk to somebody else. my mom and her entire family had grown up in parkersburg and so happened this this farmer whose name was willbert had been on the phone with my grandmother that day bragging about our son being an environmental lawyer, so certainly he could help, right? [laughter] >> i got that call and i said, well, i'm happy to take a look at whatever you have, come up to cincinnati, bring whatever you have, we will take a look at this and we will see if there's something that we could help you with. that was october 1998, he arriv ed in our office, this is the day of vhs tapes, all the big black video tapes, boxes of photographs, we sat down and
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started watching tapes and it was clear to me, yeah, something very wrong was happening here, it was pretty obvious, you could see the white foaming water, you could see it coming out of a pipe marked dupont company, so to me i thought, okay, this is what i do. [laughter] >> this is what i've been doing for years. this is a regulated landfill, regulated by the state of west virginia, we can pull the permit s, we can figure out what's regulated, what materials are in the landfill and we can certainly get to the bottom of this pretty quickly. now, this was somebody that couldn't afford our rates and our law firm typically represent ed big corporate clients, hundreds of dollars an hour. i thought, again, this is a family friend referred to me by family friend, straightforward case and we agreed to take the case on on contingency fee. we thought straightforward. started digging into the case
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1999, getting all the permits, reviewing everything that i thought i could review, nothing was jumping out, nothing explaining what we were seeing, ended up filing a lawsuit against dupont in 1999. started asking we want all the records, tell us what's in the landfill. we will have to give you everything about what's regulat ed, listed in the landfill, again, couldn't figure out what was going on, nothing was jumping out. so i then said, well, what are you making at the plant down the river that's sending this waste to this landfill, maybe something that's not on your permit, well then we got push back to put mildly from dupont. wild fishing expedition, stick to the permit, we went to court, we had to get order, finally dupont to turn documents over and i start pouring through these, nowadays if you're in a
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case like this, everything is done electronically, searches on the computers, everything was paper, so i started getting all the paper file, started putting order, walking through -- walk-through and figure out what's going on here, one day a document that jumped out at me, dupont talking to the u.s. ep arveción about this -- epa about landfill and never heard of this , all of the information about regulated chemicals, couldn't find anything about it. yet this is summer of 2000, at that swing i called one of our chemistry experts that we had worked on for corporate clients, never heard of it. but you know i just saw an article about the 3m company pulling something similar sound ing call pfos off the market, chemical that they were using to make scotch guard, if
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they are pulling that chemical off the market this stuff sounds similar, maybe we should ask about that, we started asking dupont, what is f -- pfoa stuff. court order to turn materials over, lots and lots of paper. many hours spent going through all of this and when i started to piece together looking through that information, pretty disturbing, really opened my eye s to realize there was a whole world out there that exist ed outside of this regulat ed listed chemical world that i had been dealing for 8 years. what i saw was we were dealing with a chemical that was completely unregulated, and was outside the scope federal rules, okay, well, it's probably harm ful, if it was harmful and
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toxic it would be regulated. i started going through the documents, internal studies from dupont, what i would see is this story, this is a complete man- made chemical, did not exist on the planet prior to world war ii, right after world war ii the 3m company up in minnesota developed chemicals, i'm not a chemistry expert, excuse description of these, but apparently when you combine carbons and flourines together it's strong chemical bonds, the chemicals invented right after the war, two of them in particular 3m started making, pf os, they were using that to make things like scotch guard, over chemicals pf orveción a they were sell to go dupont,
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plant was the world's largest manufacturing facility, it had been built right in 1940's and dupont started purchasing this stuff from 3m as early as 1951 because it was useful, it helped the manufacturing process. so you think about, 1951; that's decades before the u.s. epa even existed. it didn't come into existence until 1970. first federal regulations and didn't come out until 1976. dupont start purchasing this stuff decades before the rules go into effect. they start shipping it down to west virginia where it's used in manufacturing plant, thousands of pounds of that are used a year. since it wasn't regulated at the time, the waste are going direct ly into the ohio river, not being filtered in any way,
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emissions from the manufacturing process go up smoke and blowing right across the river to ohio and then the liquid sludges that were being generated being dump ed into pits all over the plant, so they would filter directly into the water. dupont even though there wasn't an epa at the time, dupont had the biggest lab in the world, most sophisticated scientific laboratories that existed. thousands of scientists, so when scientists in the world, they started looking at this unique chemical and bringing it down to their plant and they started realizing this stuff is really unique. chemical bond, once it gets out in the environment, it doesn't break down, stays there forever, we are now hearing about the chemicals being referred to as forever chemicals, can't break
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down under natural conditions. so once they get out there, they stay there, dupont start looking at what's the toxic effect to this stuff. in 1960 they do studies on all laboratory animals, rats, dogs, monkeys eventually and seeing all toxic effects, by the 1980 's they start doing cancer study and find out that the chemical causes cancer in laboratory rats, not just might be related to, their own scientists say, this is a confirmed animal carcinogen. they start tracking the workers, they see work efers start -- workers start getting similar problems. in 1970's particularly disturb ing piece of information comes out. this stuff not only stays there,
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gets out to living things that are exposed to chemical; absorb it and gets into the blood and stays there. not only persists in the environment, persists in living things and every little bit will build up in your blood, in your body, by 1970's 3m and dupont were aware that this stuff was getting into human blood, okay, i'm looking at the studies; they knew this was getting into human blood not just work efers but a cross the united states. okay. and they start monitoring the workers to see what kind of effect this has, by the 1970's , it's toxic and getting into people, the tinniest amount s are building up, so dupont is very concerned about this and start saying, well, we are admitting this into the air and water, they do modeling, they see the air emissions are going to ohio, and also ohio
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river, there's a public water supply fill right next door. they go out and sampling water supplies, the chemical is in the drinking water in ohio and west virginia. by 1984, though, this chemical still unregulated, the u.s. epa and the state don't know it's out there. wait a minute, how does this happen? the law that came out in 1976, toxic substances control act, well, it's focused on new ones, ones that come out after 1976, what about existing pfoa and prveción f -- pfos. the company using and manufacturing chemicals; they have to tell epa if they think the chemical presents a risk to
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human health or the environment, despite all of these internal studies i'm seeing congress every being caused in the animal s, repeated discussion in the company, do report to epa and unfortunately the decision was no. and then when it's found in the public water supply, that's also not reported. i'm seeing all of this information and i'm realizing as i'm going through the documents, not only is this chemical one that's massive amount being used at the -- at the manufacturing plant, when dupont found it was getting into the public water supply in west virginia, they thought it was coming from the pits, so in the 80's they dug up 7,000 tons of pfoa soaked sludge and dumped it. guess where it was dumped;
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landfill, what does this stuff do when it hits the water, it foams and dupont had gone out and sampled the water coming out of the creek, by 1990, they were monitoring that. dupont was aware it was in the landfill, in the creek water and public water. dupont scientists, though, say what would be a safe level of this for people who are exposed to it. in 1988, their own scientists said to more than 0.6 parts per billion. okay, what does that mean, all right, the relevance of that is at the time the lowest you could probably even find in the water under dupont's own method was 0.6 parts per billion, in other words, if it's in the water, you need to filter it out because bioaccumulation effect.
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it's like a ticking time bomb. dupont took the number and round ed it up and compared to levels finding in public water supply, community wasn't told, government regulate ofers -- regulateovers the water. the cows were drinking a thousand times that level. there's analysis, what would this do to cows, it was pretty clear what was going on in the landfill. after i solved all of this we were able to settle the case for family and at that swing we now know, i'm looking at information showing the chemical is in the drinking water of tens of thousands of people, likely have been there for years, decades, nobody knows. the public hasn't been told. we had draft press releases, what would we say if we are asked about this, they never
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went out. the government agencies haven't been told. in 2001i sat down and decided this is a massive health threat. this chemical wasn't just used in taking trveción -- fast-food wrappers, stain resistant carpet ing, fire fighting foams. wide variety of consumer product s, the fact that it was found in human blood across the country was very concerning. the fact that nobody knew about this to me was equally concerning, so at that swing i put together a massive letter and sent it to u.s. epa. mr. tenant was so convinced, people need to see what's going on, when you sit down and look at the facts, it's clear. he's right. clearly there was a problem.
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so in 2001i assumed i need to lay this out for the u.s. environmental protection agency, attach all the documents and surely they'll come in and set appropriate drinking water standards. i cited all the different federal laws, everything that ep a could do this to stop this. that was march of 2001. 19 years ago. unfortunately contradict -- crickets; the community came to us and said, we want it out. if it'll cause effects in animal s, we want it filtered out of our water and what would it do to us in the long term. as a lawyer i'm thinking, how do we do this, it's not regulated. no federal standards, ended upbringing a lawsuit against dupont as class action for the
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entire community trying to seek water filtration and appropriate studies to tell people exactly what it would do to them over time. that was in 2001. through that lawsuit we found out additional testing, 70,000 people were being affected by the chemical in drinking water. communities all up and down of ohio river outside of plant. i continued to funnel that information to u.s. epa as i was getting from dupont internally to try to warn this is a public health threat, you need to do something. in 2002 the u.s. epa stepped in and we will initiate review of the chemical. this something went unregulated, we think we may have to ban this ; that's 2002. in 2004 u.s. epa sued dupont say ing you withheld information
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from us, the fact that it was in drinking water, crosses the plac en trveción -- placenta and that lawsuit gets filed in 2004. at this swing, something happens that hasn't happened yet. the media start for the first time publishing articles and actually information starts to trickling out to the public about what's going on with the chemical. ab crrveción wrote -- information started to come out. at that swing dupont settled lawsuit in west virginia, settled case that u.s. epa brought. claimed to be the largest penalty in history of epa,
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$16 million, the company was making hundreds of millions a year off this product. epa said it's been settled, there's an announcement, dupont will stop making the chemical over the next 10 years. you think wait a minute. i thought 3m was making it. in 2000 they announced they would stop making both of them. .. ..
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>> what's going on there, right? think about it. all of theerksz all of that chemical that's been pumped out into the environment the preceding 50, 60 years was still there. agreeing not to make more was great, but out didn't address what was already out there in our environment that was going to stay there forever in soil, in water, in landfills probably all over the country. yet the epa backed off, the press went away, you never heard anything more about this. and under our settlement in west virginia, one of the things we agreed to do was not only filter the water, but we created this really unique process. dupont was saying despite what we were seeing in the animal studies, those animal -- that animal data including the cancer data was completely irrelevant because rats aren't humans. even though, keep in mind, the
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only reason you're doing the rat studies is to predict human effects. nobody's caring whether the rats are getting cancer, okay in you're doing it to predict human effects. so we said, okay, look at your worker data. well, those are such highly exposed people, that human data isn't relevant to the people that are drinking it. so when we sat down and did our settlement, what we did is we created an independent panel of scientists that both dupont and us, both sides, sat down and said we want independent scientists to look at the levels people are actually drinking it in this community and tell us, is that, in fact, linked to these diseases including cancer. we it that up in 2005. that took seven years to do. over those seven years, that's when tfoa's being fades out, you're not hearing -- phased out, and every time we try to push this issue what we're told is, well, the science is uncertain. after all, the science panel's looking at it, and they haven't
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reached any conclusions yet. we ended up getting 69,000 people that came forward gave blood, provided medical information. this panel ended up doing some of the most comprehensive human studies ever done on any chemical. and in 2012 they finished their work, and they announced that drinking this chemical was linked with six different diseases, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colithes, preclamps ya and high cholesterol. when that data came out, i thought certainly we'll have standards now. you have more data than you could ever want on any chemical. no. at that point epa says, well, we have to determine whether this is really a federal program. so testing began really for the first time in this country, 2013, 2014. public water supplies were
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required to start testing. sure enough, it's being found everywhere. but there was still no federal guideline. then a dramatic thing happened in 2016. a new york times magazine article came out that summarized the history of this. and out basically went through the history. and it pointed out the fact that this testing was occurring across the country, and this was found in other places within just a couple months after that, u.s. epa came out with their first guideline ever for these chemicals in drinking water. guideline. no more than 70 parts per trillion. now, that triggered massive sampling all over the country, because the department of defense realized that these chemicals had been used in fire-fighting foams which we've
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talked about outside military bases and airports all across the country. they started systematically going down the list and sampling for those chemicals. during 2016-2017, almost ever day some new community across the united states and worldwide, sampling began in other countries as well, started realizing these chemicals were in their water too. and under our settlement, one of the things that also happened was once those links were found, everybody in that community got medical testing paid for by dupont for these diseases, and the people who had one of those linked diseases, they were able to go forward and pursue damage claims against dupont. and dupont would not dispute if, under our agreement, drinking that water at those levels can cause those diseases. we had 3500 people in that community that had one of those six diseases. they brought their claims. the first one went to trial in 2015. so the first time ever all of this information was laid out to
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juries, to the public, verdict against dupont for having caused a woman's kidney cancer. two more trials, both verdicts against dupont, ever increasing verdict amounts including juries saying dupont acted with conscious disregard of the risks in what they did. as this is happening, as this information is coming out, "the new york times" magazine articling was finally out there. juries are seeing this. there's still relatively little being reported about this. there's -- most people in the country are still completely una aware this chemical's in their water. when communities are finding out it's in their water, it's as if, oh, this emerging chemical we've never heard of is now here. i guess we need to study it. and what we then hear from focus as they start learning about this, we just don't know what these chemicals will do. and the companies come forward and say, well, there's no evidence yet of what these chemicals will do to you. and so it was incredibly frustrating as i'm watching this happen, as this -- all of what
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we tried to do to get this information out to the public. and keep in mind once we knew about tfoa, i mean, it took 20 years to get this information out about what pfoa does, what it's been known to be able to do internally by the companies, finally getting this information out. well, during that ten years of the phase-out of pfoa, replacement chemicals had been brought out on to the market, ones with maybe one or two fewer carbon atoms. and suddenly those are new. and what we're hearing from the companies, well, there's no -- all that or science about pfoa doesn't relate to these. these are different, new chemicals. there is no ed that any -- evidence that any of those cause any adverse human health effects. so it's almost as if suddenly we start all over again. you know, taking all this time to get this information out, you tweak it a little bit and suddenly it's new and we start all over. so what we've been seeing happen is people are realizing we need
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to address not just fo a&p fo, but this entire family. what i mentioned at the beginning, there are hundreds if not thousands of those. okay? we've looked at the pfoa, pfos, now we've realized all these others are out there as well, and we're being told there's not enough science. yet all of us that are being exposed and having these chemicals in our water, in our body, we're told under our, the way our legal system works, we have the burden to prove whether they're causing us harm. we have to do the studies to show whether they're causing harm or not. so it's all of these years as i see that happening and as i see this develop again where, can despite everything we've done on pfoa, we till have folks saying -- we still have folks saying we just don't know enough about it. there's no science. nothing's been done to tell us
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what the harm is. and these related chemicals, we don't know anything about that either. i've been doing what i can to help get that information out, to try and provide as much of that information as i can. particularly when i hear people get up and say, well, there's never been any studies, and the science is still out, we need to really study this. that's why i decided to do the book, all right? to try to put this information together, to give people the facts here's what really happened, here's what we really know, here's what it was like for these communities to have to go through this. here's what it's like for a community that's told you, you people being used as guinea pigs, you have to prove the science, you have to do this. well, here's a case where the community did that. they did this massive study. they went through all of those hoops. yet as we sit here today in the united states, this chemical, pfoa, is still not regulated at the federal level. the states are having to step
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forward and trying to do this themselves. so i wanted to put this together in hopes there'd be at least a source out there for people to know as they're learning every day, different parts of the world. this chemical is being found all over now. it's being found in australia with, new zealand, italy, germany. you name it. all right? in drinking water, in human blood, all over the planet. we do know enough about pfoa that we should be taking steps now to protect people from this. don't make other communities who are learning about it for the first time do this 20-year process again. so it's been incredibly encouraging to see the book come out. and after "the new york times" article came out, mark ruffalo calls and says, how is this happening in the united states and i've never heard of this? how do we bring this story out to a larger audience? luckily, he teamed up with the folks at participant media, and they rolled out a movie that just came out a couple months
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ago here in the united states, "dark waters," to tell this story, to try to get this information out in a manner that people can understand this is what happens here in the united states, this is what's really happening. each of us, each individual can be like mr. tenant. stand up, speak out and say this isn't right. we need to stop this. this isn't the way it should happen. we shouldn't be exposed to this, and we've got to do something about it. so i'm hoping that with the book, with the movie, there's also a documentary, "the devil we know," that shows the real people involved in this as well. with all that information, hopefully, people will be inspired to know, we can speak up, we can take steps to prevent this and, hopefully, our children won't have to repeat this process. we'll all learn something from it. so thank you. [applause]
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if folks have questions, i believe that they want to come up to the microphone. i'll be happy to answer some questions. >> thank you so much for your work. it's a reminder to me that journalists and lawyers and government regulations get a really bad rap, especially today, and it's really a reminder of how important they are and how much more, frankly, i think we need the truth told. i would love to know if you drink any water at all -- [laughter] and what you would recommend that we might do to try to keep ourselves -- i'm going to go home and probably take all my pans away and get out my grandmother's cast iron pan, not my teflon. but really, like, what steps can we take for our own health, or is there anything we can do? >> that's a great question. in fact, one of the things that we've tried to do with the rollout of not only the book, but also with the film, is try
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to make information available online. there's a campaign that's called fight forever, for example, that was created in conjunction with the movie to try to give people information, you know, so that people can make their own choices. none of us had a choice to be exposed. one of us were told this was happening. but hopefully, if we have information about where were these products used, which companies are switching away, which products no longer have these so we can actually start making choices and try to support the folks that are making the switch, and there are a number of companies now that are agentively switching away -- actively switching away, trying to promote safer alternatives. so is that is happening. you know, unfortunately, it's in drinking water pretty much everywhere, and, you know, one or more of these related chemicals. it's difficult to avoid the exposure. but information, to me, is key. and as you indicated, the role of the media and the role of the journal is critical. and i try to explore that in the
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book, try to talk about how critically important it was for the journalists who are able to bring the story out first outside of parkersburg to the wider state of west virginia, then on a national basis. and how important it was when the media basically went away for over ten years. and even now, even with this movie that's been out there, it's still very difficult to get people to look at this story, to have anybody in the national media report anything about it. so it's critically important role unfortunately in the last couple of years as we've seen a lot of the investigative journalists for a lot of papers, unfortunately, you know, the newspapers are getting rid of that branch. and so it's, it was a critically important part of this story. and in the book i try to talk about how all of those different things interplay. of you know, it's not just the legal case, it's not just the
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regulations, but it's also how science is generated, how it's published, how the media reports. all of those things together create this situation. >> in the beginning i was impressed at the fact that dupont was doing all this research and, you know, discovery. so the fact that they didn't follow up on it, is that an example of laziness, financial considerations or arrogance on the part of dupont? >> you know, it was -- and, again, i explore this a lot more in the book because this was a really kind of, to me, a fascinating dynamic. you saw scientists and lawyers within the company saying we need to do something different, we need to switch away, move away from this material. lawyers recommending company needs to do something different. yet then you had the business folks who were saying this is going to penalize our business. this is not required under the regulations. so you had this tension and dynamic.
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and what we see in this case at least is the business interests won the day. >> the second question is based on the present administration,ers pa's going the wrong -- epa's going the wrong direction i'm assuming. >> you know, this particular situation is one that i view as, essentially, i don't think it's a partisan issue. i mean, this is clean water, clean blood. i don't see it as red, blue, democrat, republican. this is something, and as you'll see when you look at the history we outlay in the book here, this has gone on through multiple administrations. this has gone on for 20 years through democratic and republican administrations. these different forces i've been talking about, they're bigger than one administration or one political election at a time. it's a systemic problem in the way that we regulate and address chemicals in the united states that's going to go far beyond just one election. yeah. >> so in 2014 i was a resident
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of toledo, ohio, and our water went toxic from agricultural runoff, so i've been following water issues ever since. so i have a two-part question, what communities are responding well, and what are they doing about it. and we couldly, congress propose -- secondly, congress proposed a bill january 28th, i believe, of this year to define it as a hazardous material. what would that look like if the future? >> yeah. as far as which communities are handling this well, again, through that fight forever chemicals campaign there are a number of the different community groups that have formed across the country in different communities that are grappling with this issue. for example, where the dupont replacement chemical, which is called gen-x, is being manufactured and usedded right now outside of fayetteville, north carolina, that new chemical has managed to contaminate the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people in the wilmington, north carolina, area. a community group has gotten
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together to try to bring attention to that issue and bring awareness to this broader group of chemicals. so so through the fight forever chemicals campaign, environmental working group, center for environmental health, green science policy institute, there are a number of different organizations that are trying to help bring that information out and give communities the tools to help bring that information to residents. and as you indicated, it's been incredibly encouraging to see just within the last year the first time we have seen legislation being proposed at the federal level in this country to deal with these chemicals. it's taken 20 years to even have that discussion begin, and there are bills that have been proposed to try to require epa to actually designate these chemicals as hazardous or to require them to be regulated. because as i indicated, they're still not technically at the federal level. states are moving forward, but at the federal level there's
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still incredible resistance to doing that. you have massive potential liabilities here. i mean, think about it. chemicals, manmade chemicals that are in the blood of virtually every person and in drinking water and soil all over the country that don't go away unless they're removed. and there are essentially fingerprints back to only a couple of companies. so you're talking about massive potential liabilityings. and the department of defense is very concerned about this because of all the military bases and all of the contamination from fire-fighting foams over the years. so it's a very big debate now going on. and so there was legislation that almost passed here just a few, few months ago. but at the last minute, did not pass. and i believe there's already, there's a bill pending in the u.s. house, and i believe that i think the current administration is has already publicly said it would veto it.
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so so it's a fight that's going on right now. and i was just in europe last week, and the e.u., the u.k. and the european union, they're realizing steps need to be taken to address these chemicals now on a proactive basis. they're taking much more proactive steps than here in the u.s. where we're still fighting about whether they should even be regulated. >> thank you for your work. this has been very enlightening and very upsetting. two questions. first of all, you first -- you mentioned filtering. is there a filtering system that we can install in our homes, perhaps, that would filter this out of the tap water? and the other question is surely i suppose your first work was pro bono with tenant, but that can't be solely the case. who's been supporting you on this work? >> you know, think i'll address the second question first. you know, this was, again, one of the things i talked about in
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the book. it's just, i think, a remarkable series of events that had to align in order for any of us to know about any of this right now. and one of those was not only mr. tenant calling me and my grandmother recommending him -- [laughter] but the fact that our firm took this case on. i mean, think about this, this took almost 20 years and it's still ongoing. this is still being litigated. it -- there are a lot of smaller firms or particularly firms that represent plaintiffs, personal injury type cases would not have been able to stick that out or have the resources to finance that. particularly when a lot of this happened during massive economic meltdown, you know? we're waiting for the science panel, that was when the economy was collapsing, 2008, 2010 time frame. so to have a firm with the resources to take this on was incredibly important. filtering. the chemicals that we're primarily talking about, pfo s&p
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foa, the c8s, the ones that have eight carbons, very easy to filter these out through carbon filtration. in fact, dupont -- you know, this is not the rocket science technology. it's been around forever. and as soon as we sued them and brought this out, they put the filters on, they were able to reduce the pollution by 99% almost overnight, and they could have done it decades earlier. and under our settlement, the public water supplies in people's homes with the private wells all got granular-activated carbon as well. so the problem has been as those chemicals have been phased out and we're moving to these replacement chemicals, c6s, c4s, things that have fewer carbons, they're showing to be a little more difficult to filter. and, for example, down in north carolina where they have the gen-x problem, they're looking at do we need new ways now to try to filter this out. unfortunately, that could be extremely expensive. in the communities, the cities
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that are dealing with this and the people who are drinking it, right now they're being told they have to foot the bill to do this. i mean, companies are not necessarily coming forward and saying we'll pay for all of this. those communities are having to spend millions of dollars to put filtration systems in, to try to design these systems to work for long periods of time. so it's incredibly expensive problem to deal with. unfortunately, something that probably could have been prevented at least with the c8s decades ago to stop the emission into the ohio river. yeah. >> hi. what is troubling to me also is that in spite of lawsuits and settlements and fines, the people who make these decisions, the ceos, it's not even a schaap on the wrist to them. -- slap on the wrist to them. they suffer nothing from this. and we can look back over so
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many situations where that's the case. do you think that there's any possibility that someday instead of these being civil students, that the ceos of these companies that do what dupont did -- they knew all along, and they just didn't care. the people who made the decisions, you know, who didn't care, because a they knew it wasn't going to affect them, what is the possibility that this, that the laws change and these kind of people can be held criminally responsible? that would make a difference, i think. >> yeah. and, in fact, you raise a good point and one i've heard from a number of communities that are dealing with this issue. you know, there actually was a criminal investigation that was initiated by the united states department of justice against dupont beginning in 2005. and after this phaseout and the announcement that they would stop making the chemical, that investigation was dropped. and to this day, i'm not aware
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of anybody pursuing it since. so nobody has gone to jail for any of this even though it's basically contaminating everyone on the planet. but unfortunately, most of the emphasis to this day has been civil cases for money damages. because it's up to the government entities to decide when to bring those kind of chargings. yes. >> yes. my wife and i are former parkersburg residents. we retired down here last year. my question is she used to work for them back in the late '80s, right? i was a contractor. i've been in there a hundred times. they've gone through some name changes, chemors and some others. have they done this for a reason to kind of get around legally? >> well, you've raised ab interesting point, and -- an interesting point, and i forgot to mention that. you know, as we finally were going to trial, the first trials
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were starting in 2015 to bring this information out and juries actually decide when the companies should be held responsible. right before that dupont, which had been making teflon are since day one, actually spun off its entire teflon business into a completely new company called chemors, as you indicated. and so when the first jury verdict comes out, dupont's response is, well, that's not us. that's chemors. and now we have a fight going on, a very public fight between chemors and dupont. and dupont has since morphed as well. what was left of dupont then merged with dow chemical and then split into three new companies, one of which is the new dupont which is very different from the dupont that existed during the time frame we're talking about. but you now have chemors suing dupont saying this was all a
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fraudulent transfer, the creation of chemors was a fraud. there are claims being pursued about that right now. so we'll see how that plays out in the court system. but all of that happened right about the time this was finally coming out into the public view. [applause] >> we want to thank you so much, really, for your talk and your dedication. we thank you very, very much. everyone, please, the yellow buckets outside, thank you for coming here and please help donate to keep this free. [inaudible conversations]
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>> we'll be back with more live from the savannah book festival in a but the minutes. in a few minutes. author and white house correspondent april ryan will be our guest on "in depth" live at noon eastern on sunday, march 1st. here's a portion of one of her recent booktv appearances. >> covered four presidents. covered four presidents. for 21 years. i know i look like i'm 17 -- [laughter] 21 years called by name by each president. well at least three i know the names they called me. [laughter] this one -- [laughter] but i studied for this at morgan state university, just down the road. i studied for this. this is my vocation. not knowing that i would


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