Dark Waters – compelling tale of corporate mismanagement


Mark Ruffalo (not Gruffalo as I often think) brings a great story of grit and the rule of law to the screen.

What I really liked about this film is that it seems grounded in reality. Progress is painfully slow at times. People are affected by the events. The passage of time has effects on everyone. And still the battle continues.

What I also liked was the perspective. The lawyers make the point that corporations are entities, people, in their own right. And they should behave like friends. Sometimes they don’t. Whether there manipulated by politics, greed, or just careless or badly-behaves people they must still be bound by the law. In the final settlement DuPont paid out something like $700m. Several times, the point was made that profit on C8-related products was $1b/year. Yet the first settlements, several years after the start of cases, were <$10m. Sure, $10m is a huge sum for any regular person. But it is a rounding error in yearly profits of $1b.

The film portrayed regular people, principled lawyers, and a corporation that seemed like someone who denies wrongdoing until the evidence is overwhelming and then peels off $10 from their briefcase of money to compensate you.

This is in the same vein as Silkwood, Erin Brockavich, and similar David Vs Goliath legal battle stories. Well worth seeing.

Seems DuPont, 3M, and others knew that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA aka ‘C8’) was injurious to health from in vivo and human experiments from early on in its production. And evidence built that PFOA accumulates in biological systems. With this evidence available they continued to pollute the air, water, and land around the Washington works plant, VA.

Where this story really works is in the human element: a farmer asks the grandson of a neighbor for legal help. The grandson grudgingly obliges. As he uncovers inconsistencies, omissions, and loopholes in the documents he reviews he increasingly supports the case.

Eventually, his legal partners work with him and the battle for justice gains momentum.