Climate Corner: Still everywhere

Jun 17, 2023

Callie Lyons

Why are we still talking about C8? I am often asked if our chemical problems aren’t behind us. So much time has passed since the Tennant family lost their cattle to contamination alerting the valley to the dangers lurking in DuPont’s highly fluorinated emissions. Yet, sadly the poisoning continues – and not as a remnant of industrial processes of the past.

Earlier this year I was appalled to learn that DuPont or Chemours was seeking a modification to the state permit that allows them to continue to dump PFAS directly into the river. Upon further investigation it was revealed that not only does the state-supported contamination continue; the corporation often violates this permit by discharging even greater amounts than allowed by permit.

Another reminder of our precarious position came in the form of sampling results from West Virginia that identifies excessive levels of contamination in untreated water supplies in locations all over the state. The list includes Parkersburg, Williamstown, St. Marys and many other places you might not suspect being at risk for the problem. You can find the results on the West Virginia DHHR website.

PFAS are bio-accumulative. So, until the poisoning ceases, the damage cannot be undone.

We must see to it that impacted communities like Parkersburg have the benefit of filtration to reduce the contamination from local water supplies, but this step alone is only a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem.

Ceasing the discharge of this pollution into the river is so very important I cannot overstate it. This pathway alone enables countless others and affects a much larger population of poisoned people. It goes without saying that cleaning up a river is vastly more difficult than installing a community water filtration system. Both are necessary, but if we really want to address the core problem we must stop industry from continuing this archaic practice.

Industry isn’t going to curb their bad pollution behavior over state or federal fines. They have not been willing to significantly curb their PFAS addiction over a class action that by my count cost them nearly a billion dollars so far.

It all reminds me of a quote from my favorite author Kurt Vonnegut in his book “Breakfast of Champions,” which warns against the destruction of the planet. It is a twisted, futuristic look at West Virginia that always caught my attention.

“The surface of West Virginia, with its coal and trees and topsoil gone, was rearranging what was left of itself in conformity with the laws of gravity. It was collapsing into all the holes which had been dug into it. Its mountains, which had once found it easy to stand by themselves, were sliding into valleys now.

“The demolition of West Virginia had taken place with the approval of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the State Government, which drew their power from the people.”

These government entities condoning the continued poisoning of our people do in fact draw their power from us. Are we going to silently condone these actions?

If like me you feel stuck and helpless in the overwhelming machine, I encourage you to join forces with Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action, West Virginia Rivers, the Sierra Club or any number of other groups working so hard to provoke much needed change. We can do this together. We absolutely have to.


Callie Lyons is a journalist and author living in the Mid-Ohio Valley. She is chief researcher for the Murdaugh Murders Podcast. Her 2007 book, “Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8,” was the first book to reveal the prevalence and danger of the PFAS family of highly fluorinated compounds used by industry in the manufacture of Teflon and thousands of other consumer applications.