Dark Waters: A Conversation with Mark Ruffalo, Rob Bilott & Emily Donovan

Award-winning actor and producer Mark Ruffalo joined The Washington Post Live on Nov. 19 for a conversation about his forthcoming film, Dark Waters. Inspired by true events, the film tells the story of an unexpected crusader Rob Bilott, a corporate defense attorney, who discovers a community has been dangerously exposed for decades to deadly chemicals after following a trail of secrets implicating one of the world’s largest corporations.
  • Nov 25, 2019
Highlights
“Dark Waters” follows environmental attorney Rob Bilott’s battle with chemical company DuPont over water contamination in West Virginia. In a statement to The Washington Post, DuPont said the film depicts “wholly imagined events." Actor Mark Ruffalo responded. “That statement is outrageous from them. I’m sorry. They’re the ones who came up with, they’re the ones who came up with the limits. They knew it was poisoning people. They were the ones who had the science. They did the science. They knew. They can’t sit here and say they didn’t know.”
  • Nov 19, 2019
"Dark Waters" follows Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) as he fights for a community that has been exposed to deadly chemicals for years by DuPont. But Bilott began his career defending chemical companies. He shares how a visit from one of his grandmother’s friends changed his life.
  • Nov 19, 2019
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, or PFAS, have been detected in numerous communities across the country. Because PFAS do not break down in the environment, they have become known as “forever chemicals,” and they have been detected in the bloodstreams of millions of Americans, actor Mark Ruffalo said. “Ninety-nine percent of human beings have it in our blood. I have it. You have it. And we have it in our blood because we weren’t given the choice not to have it in our blood.”
  • Nov 19, 2019
When asked what the public can do to fight chemical contamination in their own communities, Clean Cape Fear co-founder Emily Donovan said the best thing we can do is stand up and fight back. ‘This was a country, a nation that was founded on public outcry. Public outcry is exactly what changes things in our country….It is going take public outcry to end these chemicals and how they get used and how our government treats them.”
  • Nov 19, 2019
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, or PFAS,have long been used in consumer products, including water-repellent fabrics, nonstick cookware and grease-resistant paper products, as well as in firefighting foams. ‘It’s everywhere,’ actor Mark Ruffalo said. Community organizer Emily Donovan added, ‘It’s virtually impossible to opt-out of exposure.’
  • Nov 19, 2019
Mark Ruffalo
Actor, activist and producer
Academy Award®, Golden Globe®, BAFTA and Emmy® nominee Mark Ruffalo is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors, easily moving between stage and screen. Last year, he appeared in “Avengers: Infinity War,” which grossed $1.6 Billion worldwide and was the biggest world-wide film opening since 2002. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards within five years for his performances in “The Kids Are All Right,” Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” and Thomas McCarthy’s “Spotlight.” Ruffalo advocates for addressing climate change and increasing renewable energy. A regular contributor to the Guardian and Huffington Post, Ruffalo has received the Global Green Millennium Award for Environmental Leadership and the Meera Gandhi Giving Back Foundation Award. He was named one of Time Magazine’s People Who Mattered in 2011 and received The Big Fish Award from Riverkeeper in 2013. Ruffalo helped launch The Solutions Project in 2012 as part of his mission to share science, business and culture that demonstrates the feasibility of renewable energy.
Robert Bilott
Environmental attorney and author
Robert Bilott is a partner at the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister, LLP in Cincinnati, Ohio where he has practiced environmental law and litigation for more than twenty-eight years. He has been selected as one of the Best Lawyers in America for several years running and has received numerous honors for his work in environmental law and litigation. Rob is a former chair of the Cincinnati Bar Association’s Environmental Law Committee and a graduate of New College in Sarasota, Florida (BA) and the Ohio State University College of Law (JD, cum laude). In 2017, Rob received the international Right Livelihood Award, commonly known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for his years of work on PFOA. He is the author of the acclaimed new book Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer's Twenty-Year Battle against DuPont.
Emily Donovan
Co-Founder, Clean Cape Fear
Emily is co-founder of Clean Cape Fear. She is a tireless advocate for clean water, spending her free time educating the public on the dangers of PFAS and other toxins in our drinking water. In 2017, Emily worked to secure a $200K donation for reverse osmosis filling stations in Leland area public schools; ultimately, Brunswick County declined the donation putting approx. 3,500 children at risk for continued PFAS exposure. She has testified before Congress twice regarding DuPont/Chemours poisoning the drinking water supply for a quarter of a million residents downstream of their Fayetteville, NC facility; including giving testimony during the first ever congressional hearing on PFAS contamination. She regularly travels the country sharing her personal impact story and those of her neighbors and friends. She also frequents Washington, DC and Raleigh, NC pressuring lawmakers and regulators for swifter responses to our growing PFAS contamination crisis.
Moderated by Sarah Ellison
The Washington Post
Statement from DuPont
“Safety, health and protecting the planet are core values at DuPont. We are – and have always been – committed to upholding the highest standards for the wellbeing of our employees, our customers and the communities in which we operate. As a science-based company, DuPont is innovating in all facets of our business – in our policies and protocols as well as our products. Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees and the communities in which we operate.
Although DuPont does not make the chemicals in question, we have announced a series of commitments around our limited use of PFAS, and are leading industry in supporting federal legislation and science-based regulatory efforts to address these chemicals. This includes eliminating the use of all PFAS-based firefighting foams from our facilities and granting royalty-free licenses to those seeking to use innovative PFAS remediation technologies.   
DuPont is in the business of creating essential innovations the world needs today. Hollywood is in the business of telling stories. While seeking to thrill and entertain, these stories often stretch facts. Unfortunately, this movie claims to be ‘inspired’ by real events and appears to grossly misrepresent things that happened years ago, including our history, our values and science. The film’s previews depict wholly imagined events. Claims that our company tried to hide conclusive scientific findings are inaccurate. We have always – and will continue to – work with those in the scientific, not-for-profit and policy communities who demonstrate a serious and sincere desire to improve our health, our communities and our planet.” 
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