An American drama about a corporate lawsuit that poisoned farmland for years. The plot of the film is based on real events.
Robert Billot is a lawyer and lives in Cincinnati. Once an acquaintance of his grandmother, farmer Wilbur Tennant turns to Robert for help. He asks him to look into a series of unexplained animal deaths in Parkersburg. Tennant believes it’s a DuPont chemical plant and attaches video footage.
The hero arrives on farmland and is told that a large number of dead cattle had strange symptoms: black teeth, swelling, swollen organs. After hearing about this, lawyer Phil Donnelly wants to help in the investigation. Digging through EPA reports, he discovers that there are no traces of toxic substances that are not on the list of harmful compounds, because their danger has not been proven. Subsequently, Robert files a lawsuit to be provided with information about the waste in the landfill.
The corporation provides a lot of boxes of documentation in order to hide possible evidence in hundreds of documents, but still Billot notices frequent references to PFOA. At night, he makes noise in the kitchen, tearing off the carpet from the floor, and his awakened wife decides to find out what is happening. The hero talks about perfluorooctanoic acid and its presence in many American homes. It is found in non-stick pans, waterproof clothing, and floor coverings.
It turned out that DuPont had been studying the role of PFOS in cancer development for years using rats, but did not publish the results of the studies. It also turned out that the organization acquired part of the territory near Tennant’s ranch and made a dump out of it. Formally, there were no chemicals at the site, but in fact, barrels containing dangerous substances were buried. Subsequently, they began to deform and PFOA entered the groundwater.
Due to the lawsuit filed, people begin to shun Wilbor, because DuPont was primarily a large employer in the area. Robert wants to convince him to accept the company’s agreement, but he wants justice. Subsequently, Billot sends the collected data to the Department of Justice and the company pays a fine from the Department of Environmental Protection in the amount of $16.5 million.
The hero realizes that the townspeople will suffer from PFOA for life and decides to conduct a medical check for everyone living in Parkersburg. In the meantime, the organization is sending out letters warning that PFOA is found in the soil. Since PFOS is not officially regulated, there is no acceptable limit. However, Billott’s group finds in the provided materials a safe content in the ground – a particle in a billion.
At the trial, representatives of the organization claim that the environmental protection agency considers 150 particles per 1 billion to be safe. At this time, the townspeople stage protests and DuPont agrees to pay $ 300 million as a reward, not intending to carry out a medical examination of the population. Robert makes his own independent examination by studying the anamnesis and blood tests of 70 thousand people.
After several fruitless years, the financial condition of the hero worsens and, against the backdrop of stress, he experiences ischemia. In the meantime, a research team contacts him, reporting that long-term exposure to PFOA leads to 6 types of dangerous diseases. However, DuPont intends to process each claim on its own, which will take many years. Billot, knowing this, does not give up and goes to court, winning the first 3 cases. For them, he receives compensation in the total amount of 17.7 million dollars. The remaining 3,500 lawsuits force the company to surrender and it pays another 670 million.
The meaning of the film
The film carries an important message – to remind people to keep clean where they live. Our planet is drowning in pollution every day and we are the ones who contribute to this. However, we can make the Earth less polluted. First of all, this harms us ourselves – city dwellers breathe air saturated with toxic compounds that bring disease.
The action of the film shows us what a catastrophe can happen to our world in the near future. The film is filmed on an environmental theme and makes you think about it. However, can cinema influence people’s thinking, my answer is yes. Of course, this touched someone and he decided to act, someone looked and only thought, and someone just passed the time in an interesting way.
Characteristics of heroes
Robert is a symbol of impartiality and perseverance. From the beginning to the end of the case, 19 years pass. All this time he does not give up, although it is hard for him to take turns of fate. However, the efforts are not in vain, because the trials were successful.
Sarah, the wife of the protagonist, who gave up her career in favor of children, was performed by Anne Hathaway. Although she was not connected with the case, her sympathy and love helped Robert in this long period. She managed to raise morale, understanding how her husband is devoted to his goal.
Tom Terp, Billot’s boss, played by Tim Robbins, is a brave and adventurous man. Owning a law firm and realizing the possible negative consequences, he decided to join the investigation by going against Dupont.
“Dark Waters” will certainly appeal to those who love stories based on true events, because you can form your own opinion about the film and the events shown in it.