Chapter 1: There is something in the water. It’s killing the cows and the wildlife on a West Virginia farm – next to a landfill. It’s 1996 and nobody will do anything.
Chapter 2: it’s been two years and still nothing has happened. Family and friend connections lead to an environmental attorney in Cincinnati. How could this obvious of a problem still be happening? Okay we’ll listen. Okay we’ll take the case. After all, it’s not a huge Superfund site or anything. How hard could it be?
Chapter 3: Eight months in and there’s not a lot to show for a lot of work. Thousands of pages reviewed have not shown any progress. Nothing has been found to explain what was observed at the farm. Sounds like it’s time for a visit to see things first hand.
Chapter 4: A visit to the farm makes this really personal. The lawsuit is filed and the waiting begins. Months of delays was still no culprit as to the cause of the problem. The author shares some good nuggets about how to tell when you’re on the right track. Still, the trial date is closing in and there still no information about what could possibly be in the landfill.
Chapter 5: This is such a great chapter. One page in 60,000 reveals a subtle but important clue. A chemical with 26 letters and 11 syllables known as PFOA. Plant workers were tested for it, but why? What was it?
Little strands of evidence come together. A similar chemical was being discontinued by 3M. New York times article cited possible toxicity. Why wasn’t this listed as one of the regulated chemicals in the landfill?
Then comes the lightbulb moment. This is not a listed hazardous chemical. It is not a regulated material. What this chemical is, however, allows Teflon to be applied to frying pans and other surfaces. And about $1 billion is net profit annually.
Read the rest of this chapter for yourself. The moment of vindication is worth it.
Chapter 6: The amount of research available about PFOA is little to nonexistent. The only documentation is maintained by department self. This results in more delay tactics and more than one “order to compel“.
Eventually tens of thousands of more documents come in. Most of it is so hypertechnical it’s unreadable. There are, however, some important press releases that had never been used. Press releases that were related to certain chemicals public water supply. It turns out that DuPont had at least four different names for our chemical known as PFOA that it used interchangeably.
The bottom line? This chemical wasn’t just at the farm, harming cows and the farmer himself. It was in the water. Water the local residents had been drinking for decades.
On a sidenote, this chapter addresses the impact of maintaining a balance between work and life. Our hero is working on this case in addition to his normal heavy workload. His life is incredibly unbalanced. He was fortunate to have a wife that understood the demands of the job and why his work was important. I hope he returns to this topic in future chapters.
Chapter 7: It’s time for the first deposition – a toxicologist from Dupont. We learn that, as suspected, Dupont had not been forthcoming the discovery process. There were still documents out there that they were not turning over.
We also learned about a toxicology study from 1976 that included studies of blood banks. The study was repeated in the years to follow. PFOA was found in everyone. Everywhere. They knew this for 20 years and told no one.