Lead character in Dark Waters has ties to Wilmington

Updated: Nov. 18, 2019 at 6:22 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dark Waters hits theaters on Friday, and is already generating some Oscar buzz with critics. The movie, about chemicals in drinking water in a town in West Virginia, hits very close to home for people in southeastern North Carolina worried about GenX.

In the film, Mark Ruffalo plays the lead character, a lawyer named Rob Bilott. Bilott is the real life attorney who helped a West Virginia farmer sue DuPont, after he says toxic sludge from their landfill killed his cattle.

Bilott’s efforts with that farmer, and later thousands of others who claim they were poisoned, have cost DuPont tens of millions of dollars in settlements. Bilott also helped expose disturbing secrets about how the chemical industry works, sometimes putting chemicals into the drinking water despite unknown effects on human health.

Shortly after Bilott sued DuPont for putting toxic chemicals into the West Virginia drinking water, DuPont opened up a chemical plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina. That plant eventually became Chemours, maker of the infamous GenX.

WECT has learned Bilott offered his assistance suing Chemours to Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, but was passed over for another firm. Despite Bilott’s tremendously successful track record, CFPUA hired Brooks Pierce, a North Carolina law firm they had worked with in the past.

While Bilott had agreed to work with a Wilmington law firm on contingency, only getting paid if he won the case, CFPUA is paying Brooks Pierce by the hour. Their legal fees to date are about $800,000.

Mark Ruffalo and Rob Bilott will appear on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, along with Wilmington GenX activist Emily Donovan. They’ll be discussing chemical contamination in the Cape Fear River and then meeting with members of Congress.

The event will be live streamed starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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