Weigh benefits of proposed cracker

Letter to the Editor The Times Leader Jul 11, 2020 by Aaron Dunbar

I live in a small town in southeast Ohio, about a half hour away from Parkersburg, West Virginia.

I remember being beyond excited to learn that a major Hollywood film was being made about my community, Todd Haynes’ excellent 2019 feature “Dark Waters.” The film focuses on chemical giant DuPont’s willful poisoning of the Parkersburg area via the manufacturing of Teflon, which exposed countless numbers of unknowing citizens to the deadly chemical known as C8.

I ended up seeing “Dark Waters” twice in the same Parkersburg movie theater, and went with a friend the second time. As we were waiting for the film to begin, an elderly woman in the row ahead of us turned around and began making conversation.

It turned out that she was one of the many victims who’d been poisoned by DuPont, and that she, her husband, and two of their neighbors now each only had a single kidney. I was stunned by this, but even more so when I told the woman that this was my second time seeing the film, and she responded by asking me:

“So, do you believe that what they say in the movie is true?”

Here was a woman who’d just told me that a multibillion-dollar corporation had poisoned her, robbed her of an organ, and potentially shortened her life. And yet it was clear to me that she was used to having to defend the fact that she was a victim.

So entrenched was DuPont in her community, and so successfully had they duped so many people into thinking they’d done nothing wrong, that this woman’s own friends and neighbors evidently didn’t believe her when she told them that she and her husband had been poisoned.

In the months since this event, I’ve gradually begun learning more about the proposed PTTGC cracker plant being built along the Ohio River.

Although I’m a few miles further south from the areas immediately impacted by this development, I can’t help but be alarmed by certain echoes of the situation here. It’s being argued, for instance, that the regional economic benefits of this facility will outweigh the considerable health and environmental risks, despite this claim already looking very much to be a lie on behalf of the petrochemical industry.

I obviously have no power or authority to tell anyone what to do or what to believe. But it chills me to think of the Ohio River Valley being treated as just another sacrifice zone, and I sincerely hope that those advocating for this plant will think very carefully about their reasons for doing so, and whether or not the plant’s alleged benefits will even begin to outweigh the risks.

To read more about these potential risks, please visit Concerned Ohio River Residents on Facebook, or visit nocrackerplantov.com for more information.