Parkersburg’s Plight: WWAY anchor goes home to town where GenX predecessor tainted water

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PARKERSBURG, WV (WWAY) — While GenX in the Cape Fear’s drinking water is a relatively new discovery, a community up north has dealt with a similar issue for decades.

For decades, DuPont dumped dangerous chemicals into the Ohio River, tainting the Mid-Ohio Valley’s drinking water. It’s where WWAY anchor Ashley Sturm grew up. Recently she went home to Parkersburg, WV, where the impacts of the chemical later replaced by C8 have had deadly impacts.

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You didn’t have to work at the plant to know what was going on. The signs were everywhere.

The community could see the foam building up in the water. Some remember fish dying and birds falling out of the sky. Others recall their health problems working in and around the plant.

Parkersburg’s Plight: Chemical similar to Genx found to make people sick

As far as legal action goes, the first alarm bells sounded off in the 1990s when a farmer, who lived by a DuPont landfill, noticed his cows were dying.

The farmer settled out of court, but in the process his lawyer stumbled upon the words “perfluorooctanoic acid.” It’s also known as C8.

Soon after, the Lubeck Public Service District sent out a letter to its customers, including the Sturm family, telling them about the chemical, but assured the community the water was safe.

“An unregulated chemical for which LPSD has monitoring data is ammonion perfluorooctanoate, also known as PFOA and C8,” it read. “These levels are below the DuPont guideline and DuPont has advised the District that it is confident these levels are safe.”

Joe Kiger wanted to know what DuPont had to do with his water, so he called the company himself.

“When I got off the phone, the wife asked me, ‘Well, what did you find out?’ And I just told her, ‘I was just fed the biggest line of BS,'” Kiger said.

In 2001, Kiger, his wife and a small group of other people filed a class action lawsuit against DuPont.

Parkersburg’s Plight: Mid-Ohio Valley’s message to Cape Fear community about water threat

Instead of outrage at DuPont, however, the community turned on them.

“DuPont is a very strong presence in this community. It’s the livelihood for thousands of people,” said Kiger. “The community, the people were very skeptical of us. They wanted to know what we were doing this. Why would we go up against DuPont? I was a money grubber.”

In 2005 they settled for $70 million. It all went to answer one question: What was C8 doing to our bodies?