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DuPont Chemical Cover-Up | Unsafe to Drink | 2

DuPont Chemical Cover-Up | Unsafe to Drink | 2

Tue, 26 Jul 2022 07:01

While we used many sources in creating this season, key elements of the story were drawn from the book Exposure by Robert Bilott. We highly recommend it. You can buy the book here:

Earl Tennant's case comes to a close. Robert Bilott faces an agonizing choice, as he confronts the magnitude of DuPont's pollution.

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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondri app. Download the Wondri app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's October 2000 in Lubach, West Virginia. It's a warm day and Joe Chi-Gur is relaxing on a patio swing in his backyard. As he rocks back and forth, he looks out over his yard where his wife, Darleen, is watering a row of flowers. The garden has grown lush and the air is rich with the smell of lilies and fresh cut grass. He locks eyes with his wife and grins. This is one of those sweet moments, a lazy afternoon when everything feels simple and easy. It's a feeling that comes naturally here in this rural town in West Virginia. Joe works as a PE teacher at a local school. He likes his neighbors and he and his wife feel connected to the local community. It's a good life and on a day like today, Joe knows there's nothing more he needs to do other than sit back and enjoy the sunshine. Joe sets down a glass of water and notices a male truck arrive at the front of their house. His wife, Darleen, looks up from the flowers and nods, she'll go grab it. Darleen heads to the mailbox, but when she begins opening letters, Joe sees her face transformed with a look of concern. What is it, Darleen? We forget to pay a bill? Oh, we didn't forget anything. We got a bill. A water bill, but there's something strange in it. Oh, god, let me guess. They're increasing the rates. They always want more. Oh, it's not money here. Take a look. Darleen hands over the ladder from the water department and Joe begins to scan the text. To all water customers, Lou Beck, public service district committing the service fines, drinking water. Oh, okay, what's the issue? Keep going, keep reading. They've detected the presence of a chemical, C8. What does this mean? Parts per billion, safety levels. Well, there's some sort of chemical in the water. I got that, but they're making it sound like it's no big deal. But Joe, they're telling us there's something in the water. You're not concerned at all? Oh, I think it's one of those things where they have to cover all their bases. You know, that's how it goes with government. Rules and regulations. They probably have to put some notice even if it's nothing. So you think we're fine? Well, if we weren't fine, I think we'd hear about it. It'd be more than just some fine print on a water bill, don't you think? For a moment, Darleen squins at her husband, but then she throws her her hands and heads back to her flowers. All right, if you say so. But if anything happens to my day lilies, I'm from us, honey. The flowers are going to be fine. Joe rises from the patio swing and heads to the garbage can. He knows this is no big deal. He can toss the notice and get back to his lazy afternoon. But as he opens the lid with the trash can, he remembers something that gives him pause. How is that couple down the street? They told him and Darleen how their dog suddenly had a bunch of tumors. That didn't make sense. And the more he thinks about it, the more Joe realizes that there are some other strange things happening. Some boys barely out of high school were diagnosed with testicular cancer. And apparently some other kids at the school showed up with black teeth. Joe doesn't think of himself as someone who jumps to wild conclusions. But he teaches PE for a reason. He cares about the health of his students and neighbors. And this letter isn't sitting right. They'll always talk about some strange chemical in the water. Joe places the lid back on the trash can and heads inside the house. And he's not sure exactly what he should do or how scared he really should be. But there is one way to find out. The letter from the water department mentioned something about DuPont. The chemical company employs a lot of people in town. And so this should be straight forward. Joe's going to call up DuPont and ask about the notice. He'll get some answers. When everything is cleared up, Joe hopes he should be able to forget all about this mysterious chemical. Get back to lounging in the backyard. Without a care in the world. American scandal is sponsored by the new audiobook, Killing the Legends. The 12th audiobook and the multi-million-selling Killing series from Bill O'Reilly and Martin DuGard. Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Muhammad Ali. Three icons known everywhere in every nation across every culture. They had everything. Fame, money, the admiration of millions. But their lives spun out of control at the hands of those they most trusted. Killing the Legends explores the lives, legacies, and tragic deaths of these three legends. Each experienced a men's success. Then failures that forced them to change. Each faced the challenge of growing old and fields that privileged youth. 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In 1998, the attorney Robert Belat received an unexpected phone call from a cattle farmer in West Virginia. That farmer, a man named Earl Tenant, said that a creek running through his property had been polluted and that his cows were dying from drinking the water. Tenant claimed the pollution was coming from a nearby landfill, owned and operated by DuPont. Tenant wanted the chemical company to clean up its mess. But for the attorney Belat, representing an aggrieved farmer presented a risk. Belat normally worked with companies like DuPont, suing a chemical manufacturer could potentially ruin his career. But after looking at the evidence, Belat felt compelled to take action and began working on the case. And after months of digging, he uncovered a shocking secret. DuPont was dumping an industrial chemical into the landfill. The chemical which DuPont called C8 was used to manufacture Teflon, the non-stick material and a large source of revenue for the company. As Belat pressed forward with the lawsuit, he quickly realized that he had provoked a major fight. But while the battle initially focused on just one man's farm, soon it would grow much larger. Belat discovered that DuPont was threatening the health and entire community and that the company would stop it nothing to cover up its tracks. This is Episode 2, unsafe to drink. It's July 13, 2001 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The attorney Robert Belat takes a seat in a small conference room in the office of his law firm. Sitting across the table is Earl Tennant, the cattle farmer from West Virginia. And surrounding Tennant are several of his family members, all dressed in their best Sunday clothes. Belat smiles as he greets the family. He can tell they're doing their best to maintain a look of poise. Still, the family looks nervous. They're fidgety and avoiding eye contact with each other. And it's no surprise what has them so racked with anxiety. Today, the tenants have to make a big decision. It could earn them a lot of money and change everything for the farm. But doing what's right for the family could also hurt their community. It's a fraught situation, one that's legally and morally complex. So as their attorney, it's Belat's job to explain their options and help the family sort through a gut-wrenching decision. Belat folds his hands and with his voice calm, he reminds the family about everything they now know. And the offer DuPont is prepared to make. DuPont has been polluting their creek by dumping a chemical into the nearby landfill. And with the evidence as clear as day, the family has a strong legal case. Belat reminds the family that's why the company is willing to settle. DuPont is offering a hefty financial package, the kind of money that could change lives. But Belat says that's not the end of the story. After suing the company, Belat found internal documents showing that the problem runs much deeper. For years, the company has been making Teflon. And in the process, DuPont ends up with a lot of chemical waste, including the toxic chemical C8. This is the chemical in the water on the tenants farm that is killing off their cows. DuPont dumped thousands of tons of C8 into the landfill next to the farm. But the company had been storing the chemical in big, open pits right on the property of a nearby manufacturing plant. And the problem is those pits were just holes in the ground. They weren't protected with any kind of liner. The chemical waste leached into the ground and sank into the aquifer. That underground water is what the neighboring towns of Lucia and Lucia and Lucia are looking for. What this all adds up to, Belat says, is that DuPont is poisoning an entire community's drinking water. There may be hundreds or even thousands of people affected. Blot pauses to let the family digest the information. And as he does, tenant Sista in Laudella speaks up, asking just how bad the problem really is. Blot nods. The fact is, DuPont has created a serious problem for nearby companies. For decades, the company has researched the industrial chemical C8 and the evidence that's emerging is startling. Monkeys exposed to the chemical, growth sick and dying. One study found a relationship between exposure to C8 and prostate cancer in humans. Plus, all the evidence suggests that health problems emerge even at low levels of exposure. It doesn't take much of the chemical to make people sick. Belat wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead and gazes across the room. And he reminds the family that this is a tough situation. DuPont will give them a lot of money as a settlement. And if they take the offer, they won't have to risk losing in court. But a settlement means they won't have the chance to hold DuPont publicly accountable for its actions. They'll just have to quietly walk away. Summing up, Belat says there are two options. Take the money and let DuPont get away without any public reckoning. Or, go to trial and risk getting nothing. Belat sits back, glancing at the family members. The decision is theirs. Immediately, the family begins to bicker. They disagree about whether to play it safe and take the payout, or whether they have a responsibility to the community. The conversation grows more heated. And Belat decides his best to step away to give the family some time to figure this out. So he heads back to his private office and prepares for what they do. He heads back to his private office and prepares for what could be a long wait. Several hours pass. And the son is almost setting when Belat's secretary buzzes him. The tenants have made up their minds. When Belat reenders the conference room, the air feels electric. And Earl Tennant delivers the big announcement. They've decided to take the settlement. They're not going to keep fighting. As soon as the words are out of his mouth, Tennant's sister-in-law comes bounding over to Belat her hand outstretched. She thanks him for all his work. The money will mean the world to them. But as she continues to shower him with praise, Belat notices that Earl Tennant looks sullen with his head hanging low. It's clear just from his body language that the farmer wanted to go to trial, even if his family outvoted him. And Belat understands that. For Tennant, this lawsuit wasn't about money. It was about getting justice and doing what he wanted to do. It was about getting justice and doing what was right. And although Belat himself feels some relief that this case is over, there's a small voice inside him, whispering that Tennant is right. The settlement isn't good enough. And the fight isn't over yet. A month later, Robert Belat leans back on the couch in his living room and grabs a bottle of milk for his infant son. His baby begins to gurgle and wine. Before he starts to cry, Belat offers up the bottle and starts rocking his son. As the infant drinks down the milk with a look of deep contentment. As his baby feeds, Belat steals a glance across the living room. His wife Sarah is playing on the rug with her two other sons. They're forcing around and laughing, tickling each other. Everyone seems to be in a good mood. It's one of those rare moments as a young parent where everything is going right. And Belat knows he should be enjoying himself. He's got a nice house here in the suburbs of Cincinnati. And now that he has secured a settlement with DuPont, his work for Earl Tennant is done. And Belat has some free time to spend with his family. But Belat has a certain feeling. Something that nags him day and night. It was that look he saw on Earl Tennant's eyes. When the family agreed to take a settlement. The camel farmer looked despondent. He was unable to accept that they were just walking away and letting DuPont off the hook. Even while the company continued to poison people's drinking water. And if he's honest, Belat felt the same way. But with the settlement his work was done. And at this point all he can do is move on. Try to focus on his family and his job. And to forget about DuPont. And it's toxic chemicals. Belat's two older boys leap up from the ground and race into the other room. And Belat's wife Sarah sits up on the rug and shoots him a look. And when she's gone, she's gone. And she's gone. And Belat's wife Sarah sits up on the rug and shoots him a look. Hey, what's going on? Me? I'm fine. Rob, you've got that look. Something's on your mind. Oh, I've done. Must be a little tired. Yeah, I joined the club. But come on, don't hide it. You're thinking about something. Belat looks back at his infant, trying to avoid eye contact with his wife. Rob, come on. I don't want to pull this out of you. You probably think about that cattle farmer. Yeah. How did I know? Because we're married. I know you very well. You've had that look ever since the case got settled. Oh, I'm sorry. I don't mean to be distracted. I need to be more present, especially after pulling all those long nights. I'm not either. The apology is nice, but not needed. Tell me what you're thinking instead. The case feels like it... I mean, we took the settlement. But it feels like it didn't go away. And it's not just my conscious. I got a call from that guy, Joe Kiger, who wanted to teach his PE over in Lubach. He's scared. DuPont has their manufacturing plant right next door. And then Kiger and all of his neighbors get this notice from the water department. C8 is in their tap water. Their whole community is drinking it. That's all I'm feeling. It is all I'm feeling. It's heartbreaking. But Rob, you did your part. You got a meaningful settlement for that family. But that's the thing. That was just money. There's a bigger truth. DuPont put their chemical sludge in these big pits and it's getting into the ground and polluting people's water. Hundreds or thousands of people, they're drinking it. No one's holding DuPont accountable. The lot's infant pulls back from the bottle and starts to cry. Oh, hey, hey. It's okay. It's okay. Rob is going to be okay. Blot kisses his son as he rocks him back and forth. And then he turns back to his wife. I mean, just imagine if that stuff was in our water. What if we had to use that water to wash these baby bottles, boil macaroni? Kids over there, they're getting sick. Oh, I know Rob. I know. No one's doing anything about this. Rob, we've talked about this. I don't, I can't let it go. I could be doing something. I have a feeling I'm supposed to be doing something. Sarah gets up from the rug and takes a seat on the couch. Honey, you know you're not the only environmental lawyer in the country. Of course, but no one else has spent that much time reading DuPont's internal documents. Yeah. Well, it sounds like you know what you want to do. But if I took it on again, it would mean working on some kind of class action lawsuit. A huge thing. I'd have to put in a lot of hours again. Yeah, you would. And you're okay with that. It doesn't make me happy. No. But like you said, imagine if our children were drinking that stuff every single day. So I think you should do it. I think you should do what's right. Sarah reaches over and takes her husband's hand. Together, they share a quiet tender moment. Blah keeps rocking his infant son. This has been a peaceful afternoon. He wouldn't trade it for the world. But Blah knows that this might be the last time for a long while. That he has an easy and calm afternoon with his family. Soon, Blah's life might take a turn. He needs to talk this over with his boss. First thing on Monday. And if he gets the go ahead and Blah launches a class action lawsuit. Blah does going to find himself at war with one of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world. A few days later, Robert Blah makes his way through the office of his law firm in Cincinnati. He rounds a band and approaches his boss's office. He's about to make an unusual request. One that might be unpopular at the firm. But Blah knows it's the right thing to do. Blah opens the door and as he enters the office, he finds his boss, Tom Turp, sitting behind his desk, absorbed in a stack of legal filings. Blah clears his throat, announcing his presence. And Turp looks up with a smile. What's going on, he asks? He didn't know they had a meeting scheduled? For a moment, Blah hesitates. This is a huge risk. And he has half a mind to make up a bad excuse and walk right back out. But Blah made himself a promise. So he takes a seat and begins a short monologue. He reminds his boss how the chemical company DuPont poisoned a creek in rural West Virginia. How they dumped a toxic chemical in a landfill and ended up killing a bunch of cows. Turp interrupts. This is old news. They've settled the case. What does Blah need to talk about? Blah agrees there's nothing more to discuss about Earl Tennant, the cattle farmer. But the fact is the fight is not over. DuPont didn't just pollute a creek and kill some cows. They're poisoning an entire community's drinking water. People could be getting sick. The elderly, pregnant women, children. All because their water is tainted in DuPont, a billion dollar company doesn't seem to care. Turp raises a eyebrow, saying if Blah is so upset, what does he want to do? This is the big risk. But Blah is too enraged, too driven by indignation. He tells his boss he has a plan. He'd like to file a class action lawsuit. He wants to represent an entire community and Su DuPont, forcing the company to clean up its mess. Blah pauses as he waits for a polite rejection and a reminder that this firm represents chemical companies. It's not going to sacrifice its future for the sake of some moral crusade. But to Blah's surprise, his boss nods. And tells Blah he admires his persistence and conviction. But if he wants the case, Blah will have to work on a downside normal business hours. They'll also need a lot of outside help, consultants and other attorneys who know how to win class action suits. It's not going to be cheap. Blah was expecting all of this. He promises his boss that he'll balance the work. And if they win, they'll achieve a staggering profit. It'll be worth the investment. For a moment, Terp looks off into the distance. Then he chuckles. Says it's too bad Blah didn't get his day in court with Earl Tennant, because it's obvious he can put together a riveting or a argument. So if he's still committed, Blah can do this. The case is his. Blah thanks his boss, and after rising and walking back to his own office, he pumps his fist. This is the feeling of victory. And hopefully, the first of many to come. But as Blah starts mulling over his next steps, he suddenly hit with a heavy feeling. And the gravity of his decision begins to sink in. Blah is about to go up against one of the richest companies in the world. A chemical manufacturer with an infinite war chest and an army of the best lawyers. The fight is certain to get ugly. And if he's not careful, DuPont may decide to strike back against Blah himself. We get support from Audible. We've all got busy schedules. And I'm sure sometimes you feel like with all the things you have to do, it's hard to find time for the stuff you love to do. Like reading, that's why Audible is so great. Audible offers an incredible selection of audiobooks across every genre, from bestsellers and new releases to celebrity memoirs, mysteries and thrillers, motivation, wellness, business, and more. Plus, as an Audible member, you can choose one title a month to keep from their entire catalog, including the latest bestsellers and new releases. And also, I have to say, I love how the Audible app makes it easy to listen anytime, anywhere. 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This school serves a small rural area. It's not the most bustling place in the world. But today people are swarming into the auditorium, standing body to body. If he had to guess Bollot would say there are 850 people all jockeying for a seat. He's never seen such a lively high school event. That's a good sign because today government officials and representatives from DuCont are leading a public hearing. They're going to address the issue of water quality in the aftermath of a recent and troubling report. DuCont produced the report after testing drinking water in the nearby town of Little Hocking. And what the chemical company found was that the town's drinking water had grown highly contaminated with C8, the chemical also known as PFOA, a key ingredient in Teflon. Now government officials and DuPont are going to try to explain themselves to the public. Bollot is hoping to glean some useful information. He's already filed his class action lawsuit and begun the laborious process of building a case against DuPont. But Bollot is also hoping to find new plaintiffs for his case. He already has two lead plaintiffs, Joe Kiger, a PE teacher, and Kiger's wife Darleen. But if the suit is going to have any teeth, Bollot has to recruit more people to join. And an auditorium full of angry residents seems like the perfect place to meet some motivated people. Bollot grabs a seat. And soon the manager of the Little Hocking Water Association steps on stage and gives a brief overview of the situation. The official reminds residents that their water was found to be contaminated and the pollutant is a chemical PFOA, also known as C8. Bollot glances across the audience. The anger on people's faces is immediately palpable. In the moment the government official wraps up introductory remarks, residents begin to shout out. One man yells out that according to research, PFOA can cause tumors and animals and damage livers. And he wants to know what information government officials into Pond are withholding. Members of the audience are roughed in cheers and chowts, as the official from the water department tries to calm the crowd. But more residents yell in anger, demanding answers, and telling the officials to stop lying. Kids are drinking the water. People's lives are at stake. Facing a torrent of accusations, the government official suggests a five minute break, but that only makes the audience more outraged. Bollot turns to see one woman shooting out of her seat, pointing her finger at the official. The woman demands to know how long the department was aware that their drinking water was contaminated. The government official pauses and looks at the floor. He answers that they only learned about the contamination about four weeks ago. But the official adds, we know that Dupont's been putting the chemical in the Ohio River for apparently 50 years. Dozens of people in the audience gasp, and Bollot himself feels dumbstruck. This confirms something almost beyond his worst imagination. It was already bad enough that Dupont stored its chemical in unlined pits and contaminated the aquifer that provided drinking water to a nearby community. But dumping chemicals directly into the Ohio River is something else entirely. The Ohio is nearly 1,000 miles long. It serves communities all the way to southern Illinois. And if Dupont has been dumping a toxic chemical into the river for 50 years, the damages to people's health are almost unimaginable. So no wonder Dupont wanted to settle with Earl Tennant, and trying to sweep this issue under the rug. Soon Dupont's official takes a stage and faces another round of hard-hitting questions. He insists there's no evidence that PFOA can harm human health and that there's nothing that would indicate there's anything to worry about. But as Bollot watches the audience again, he can tell they're not buying it. No one believes Dupont, even if they are a major employer in the area. It's clear they badly broken the public's trust and that residents are terrified. Bollot isn't happy to see so many people upset, but it does give him a glimmer of hope. Soon he's going to try and enlist many of these residents in his class action lawsuit. And if they remain this furious and this ready to fight, together, they may be able to get justice from Dupont. Four months later, Robert Bollot takes a seat in the office of a law firm in Charleston, West Virginia. The room is packed with attorneys, including lawyers from Dupont and the state government. Everyone is chatting about politics and sports, but when the door opens, suddenly the room goes quiet. A woman with shoulder-length brown hair walks in. She takes a seat at the table and straightens her blouse. As she looks around the room, Robert Bollot gestures to a videographer. It's almost time to start filming. The videographer flips open the screen of a camcorder and Bollot takes a seat across from the woman. Dianne Stotz is a scientist from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. She's supposedly an expert in chemicals and human health, but Bollot has reason to question her expertise. And that's why he and so many other attorneys have gathered in this room. Bollot is planning to grill the government scientist under oath. He believes that Stotz made a terrible and erroneous decision, one that could put an end to Bollot's class action lawsuit before it even really gets started. Bollot is going to depose Stotz and get sworn testimony. If she tells the truth, if she comes clean about what happens to be a serious mistake, Bollot may be able to salvage his lawsuit. Bollot gestures for the videographer to start recording. With the camera focused on Stotz, Bollot begins the deposition. All right, the camera is rolling. Dr. Stotz, I want to start by establishing some of the basic facts. As a state talks to the collegeist, you were the leader of the CAT team. Is that correct? That's correct. And could you describe the team's nature its responsibilities? Well, as you know, several months ago, DuPont and the government regulators agreed to convene a group of scientists. That group would be responsible for developing a safety standard for the chemical C8. And by safety standard, you mean some kind of number describing how concentrated the chemical could be in people's water before the water becomes unsafe to drink. That's correct. And with that number, the public could look at water samples and get some clarity. They could figure out whether DuPont was responsible for making the water unsafe. Mr. Bollot, I won't speculate about how the number could be used. Bollot squins at the toxic colleges. That response almost sounded like something one of DuPont's own scientists would say, not the words of an impartial government official. All right, Dr. Stotz, well, let's talk about just your finding. After you and the team evaluated the evidence, you came up with a safety standard of 150 parts per billion, is that correct? That's correct. So for the non-scientists, that means that you've got a billion molecules of some liquid. 150 molecules are C8, the chemical used to make Teflon. And the rest is water. And at that percentage, 150 out of a billion, water would be unsafe to drink. Add that right? More or less. Well, someone without a Ph.D. in chemistry, I feel okay about more or less. Now, to be clear, a long time before you and the other scientists took part in this panel, DuPont came up with its own internal standard, and it was much lower, just one part per billion, not 150. Mr. Bollot, can I ask what you're getting at? Well, I'm trying to figure out how you arrived at that number. And it matters. Because if concentrations of the chemical are safe at 150 parts per billion, then the water in lieu back and little hocking is perfectly good to drink. According to your official government standard, and if the government sets a standard, residents can't sue DuPont. Any judge would throw out the lawsuit and say that according to impartial scientists, there's no reason to be concerned. Mr. Bollot, what is the question? Well, the first question is factual. Did your team of researchers include scientists from DuPont? Yes. So, hardly an impartial group. Next, did you keep notes during your team study showing how you arrived at the number? Yes. Do you still have those notes? No. I'm sorry, what happened to the notes? I faxed a copy to the firm that was coordinating the research, then I destroyed the original. You destroyed your notes? Yes. And this third party firm, coordinating the research, DuPont itself, recommended this company. Yes. Dr. Stats, you just admitted on the record that you destroyed evidence pertinent to an ongoing lawsuit. Did you ever ask the firm to return a copy of your notes so you could prepare for today's deposition? No. And why not? Because I knew they already destroyed their copy. Bollot sinks into his chair. This is unbelievable. Stats is supposed to be a public servant, but she's just given a get out of jail free card to DuPont and destroyed all the evidence supporting her decision. At this point, it's beyond obvious that DuPont and state officials are working together, trying to put an end to Bollot's class action lawsuit. Things have gotten dirty. But Bollot isn't ready to give up. And he's not going to let a single government scientist derail his fight for justice. Even if that means, Bollot has to take off the gloves. Several days later, Robert Bollot takes a seat in a courtroom in Parker's Burg, West Virginia. The room is quiet and mostly empty. And although it appears to be a sleepy afternoon in the old courthouse, Bollot knows what happens today could affect the lives of thousands of people. Shortly after deposing West Virginia's toxicologist, Diane Stats, Bollot filed a motion demanding access to the government's computers. The state scientists claimed that she had destroyed all of her records after developing a safety standard for the chemical C8. That standard described how much of the chemical had to be present in water before it became unsafe to drink. And by setting an absurdly high standard, Stats, along with their partners from DuPont, had effectively undercut Bollot's class action lawsuit. There was no way Bollot could convince a judge that DuPont had harmed a single person, not if a state scientist said the water was safe to drink. Bollot knew there was still a way to strike back. He could get access to government hard drives. Experts in forensics could recover deleted files, and they might reveal how the scientific process had been tainted, and that residents had ample reason to sue DuPont for compromising their health. But Bollot can't just demand government computers. He needs an official order from a state judge, and today he's hoping a judge will rule in his favor. Bollot is sitting in the courtroom when the judge emerges from his chambers. He's in his 70s, and Bollot knows the judge was a veteran of the Korean War. He's the kind of guy with very little patience for lies and deceit. And as soon as he calls the hearing into session, the judge turns to one of the lawyers representing the West Virginia State government, demanding to know if the state plans to keep destroying legal evidence. The attorney for West Virginia steps forward and says the state will continue to act according to custom. But the judge snorts, saying that wasn't a no. Looking flustered, the attorney responds that the state has no official policy on how its agents handle record keeping. The state talks to the college just had the right to carry out her business as she saw fit. The judge fires back, reminding the attorney that President Richard Nixon believed he had the same right. But that was no excuse for committing obstruction of justice in the aftermath of Watergate. The state's attorney begins to squirm with discomfort. And to Bollot's surprise, the judge makes it a very short hearing. He bangs his gavill and says the state needs to hand over its computers. It's illegal order and it's final. Bollot grins as he looks back and forth over the courtroom. He just secured a major victory. Because finally, someone might be able to hold DuPont's feet to the fire. While he doesn't know exactly what's on the state's computers, he has reason to believe he's about to find a silver bullet. Proof that the state government of West Virginia was colluding with DuPont. Hello, I'm Florence Given, the best selling author of the book Women Don't Are You Pretty and Girlcrush. And this is my podcast, exactly. Join me as I connect with fascinating guests from authors, cultural commentators, doctors, thought leaders to psychologist, celebrities and comedians. And guess what? We're back to do it all again in season two with the likes of the holistic psychologist, victorious scorn, and Iona David to name a few. Season two of exactly podcast out now wherever you get your podcasts. It's August 9, 2004 in Wilmington, Delaware. Inside the global headquarters of the chemical company DuPont, an atmosphere of frenzy has taken hold. Workers are rushing between offices, holding emergency meetings, phones are ringing off the hook. And as he races through the company's legal department, company attorney John Bowman, consents that DuPont is facing an unprecedented crisis. Bowman steps into his office and shuts the door behind him. Then he takes a breath and allows himself a moment of silence, a chance to clear his mind of all the madness. But as he approaches his desk, Bowman can't help but glance at his copy of the New York Times, along with the article that set this whole disaster in motion. There, splashed in ink is a headline that reads, DuPont, now in the frying pan. The article describes growing evidence that DuPont knowingly dumped a hazardous chemical used to manufacture Teflon. The story makes the company look like a villain, but worst of all, it quotes an internal email that Bowman himself sent to his boss. When he sent that email, Bowman had felt the need to raise concerns. DuPont was continuing to dump the chemical C8 despite its own stated goals to reduce its emissions. And Bowman believed the company was taking on a large risk, engaging in a legal fight over the issue. The email was supposed to remain confidential, a privileged piece of communication between company lawyers, but opposing Attorney Robert Belat discovered that West Virginia State government and DuPont had been destroying evidence related to the case. And with that stunning revelation, the court voted to unseal some of DuPont's internal communications. Those documents are beyond damaging. They offer proof that DuPont was lying. And Bowman knows that when companies are in the midst of a public crisis, they often look for a scapegoat. Someone like him, who they can blame for their trouble, and quickly send packing. There's a knock on his office door, Bowman looks up. Yeah? Hey Tom, you got a minute? Yeah, come in. The door opens and a man with soft eyes and salt and pepper hair steps into the office. Tom Sager is the general counsel for DuPont. He's the company's top lawyer, and as he glances at the newspaper, he doesn't look happy. Well, I assume we both know what we got to talk about. Yeah, that article in the Times is going to sink us. Now everyone knows we were aware the chemical was dangerous. Yes, it's true. We're in a very precarious position. So let me guess, you're here to give me some bad news. Sager looks down, shaking his head. And for a moment, Bowman feels crestfallen. He's worked so hard trying to get the company to do the right thing. He always thought he was smarter and even more cost-effective to just clean up people's water, instead of waiting for a class action lawsuit and headlines. But it appears he was wrong. John, look, I'm sure you're scared. I know you think you're about to be fired, but I want to remind you of something. DuPont would look even worse if it fired you or me or both of us. So what are you saying? I'm saying I think we're safe. Yeah. You're not going to lose your job for trying to do the right thing. Well, that's incredible news, but what do we do? This entire thing is going to spiral. The liability for DuPont could be enormous. Yeah. Evidence is stacked against us. The law has the upper hand. So, I think we have only one option. We have to saddle. Clean up the water. Get people money. Just like you said, we should do four years ago. You're serious. I am. John, you are right. We can make these problems go away doing the right thing. And maybe next time the company learns something from this mess. But for now, please cut yourself a little slack. Maybe go get some coffee because you look exhausted. Sagar smiles and exits the office. And once he's alone again, Bowman feels a wave of relief. He's glad to know his job is safe, at least for now. And he's happy that DuPont is going to settle the case. Still, Bowman isn't so confident that DuPont is going to learn any lesson or that the company is suddenly committed to doing the right thing. Because even if DuPont is going to settle, Bowman knows the chemical giant will always try to come out the winner. It's September 4th, 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts. Robert Belat walks through a hallway carrying three cups of coffee. Using his elbow, he manages to open the door to a conference room. When he steps inside, Belat finds two people sitting at a long table looking exhausted. Belat walks over and sits down with Joe Kiger and his wife, darling. Joe, a PE teacher from West Virginia, grabs a hold of a coffee. As he sips from the snobrophone cup, he asks, Blat, how much longer they're going to have to wait? They're tired. They need a break. Blat nods. He knows it's been a lot. Over the last two days, he and the Kiger's have spent nearly 24 hours inside this conference room. They've gone back and forth over the details for complex legal agreement. But while the husband and wife may be ready to call it quits, they have to stick around. Because soon, they're going to have the chance to celebrate an incredible victory. When there's been a long time coming. For the last three years, Belat has been waging a legal battle with DuPont. He filed a class action lawsuit alleging that DuPont had polluted residents drinking water. And in that lawsuit, Joe and darling Kiger served as the lead plaintiffs. At first, the lawsuit didn't seem like it would touch that many people's lives. But after sifting through legal documents, Belat discovered yet another shocking secret. DuPont had polluted the drinking water of about 100,000 people, far more than Belat ever thought possible. Over the following months, Belat and his team found out across the region meeting with residents. And when all was said and done, the team managed to enlist about 70,000 people as members of his class action suit. And at the same time, Belat acquired more and more damning evidence about DuPont. It all painted a picture of unthinkable corporate negligence, a company that knew it was polluting people's water with hazardous chemical, trying its best to avoid having to do anything about it. The pressure continued to mount, and with its back against a wall, DuPont finally decided to fold. They're offering to settle the lawsuit. That's why Belat and his two lead plaintiffs have come to Boston. They're going through a process called mediation, ironing out the final details of the settlement. But it's a long process, taking two days. But soon, Belat is going to be able to sign a final agreement, one that will change people's lives. A moment later, the conference room door opens, and several attorneys representing DuPont enter. The group takes a seat, and one of the attorneys begins walking through the final terms they're prepared to accept. First, DuPont will pay to install industrial filters in the communities where drinking water had been polluted. That should clean up the water for residents. DuPont will also fund research into the chemical C8, and the company has agreed to pay about $50 million to the members of the class action lawsuit, as compensation for damages. The attorney pauses, before explaining the last part of the settlement agreement. DuPont will partner with the plaintiffs to select three expert scientists. These epidemiologists will determine whether the contaminated water actually caused any health issues for residents. And if they find that people have been harmed, the company will pay to monitor their health. The attorney explains that these are the final terms DuPont is willing to accept. Blot shoots a look at Joe and Darleen Kiger. He believes the terms are fair, but his clients also have to be happy. For a moment, Joe and Darleen sit wrestling with the offer, but then they turn back to Blot with a smile. They've made up their minds. They're happy to take DuPont's offer. They think it's a fair deal. And with that, two days of tense negotiations are over, and Blot can finally breathe a sigh of relief. They've won. DuPont threw in the town, and tens of thousands of people are finally getting justice. But while Blot feels ready to celebrate, he also knows it may be premature. This settlement seems to be a victory, but in the days and months to come, he's going to have to remain vigilant. Because if he's learned anything from this long fight, is that the chemical company may already have another trick up its sleeve? DuPont plays dirty. From Wondery, this is episode two of the DuPont Chemical Coverup from American Scam. In our next episode, DuPont strikes back in the aftermath of the settlement, and as the battle intensifies, Robert Blot begins to fall apart. If you like our show, please give us a five-star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like, American History Tellers, and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and add free by subscribing to Wondery Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondery app. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support the show is by filling out a small survey at slash survey to tell us what topics we might cover next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle and Initially, and thank you. While we use many sources in creating this season, key elements of the story were drawn from the book Exposure by Robert Blot. We highly recommend it. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our geometizations are based on historical research. American Scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barrett, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Anna Williams, edited by Christina Malzbringer. Our senior producer is Gabriel Riddher. Executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beppman, and Marsha Louis for Wondery. Wondery. The shocking True Crime podcast The Devil Within is back for a second season, with a story about love, exorcism, and a murder that's haunted the town of West Yorkshire for decades. In 1974, Michael Taylor was a doding father of five, but after joining a local church, and falling in love with its young beautiful preacher, Michael changed. His new church determined that he was possessed by no fewer than 48 demons and would require an exorcism to save his soul and protect his young family from evil. But the supposed remedy would come at a very steep price. The terrifying series The Devil Within is available on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you're listening right now. If you'd like to binge the entire series early and add free, subscribe to Wondery Plus, in Apple Podcasts, or the Wondery app.