Robert Bilott is a corporate defense lawyer from Cincinnati, Ohio working for law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister. Farmer Wilbur Tennant, who knows Robert's grandmother, asks Robert to investigate a number of unexplained animal deaths in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Tennant connects the deaths to the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont, and gives Robert a large case of videotapes. Robert visits the Tennants' farm, where he learns that 190 cows have died with unusual medical conditions such as bloated organs, blackened teeth, and tumors. DuPont attorney Phil Donnelly tells him he is not aware of the case but will help out in any way he can. Robert files a small suit so he can gain information through legal discovery of the chemicals dumped on the site. When he finds nothing useful in the EPA report, he realizes the chemicals might not be regulated by the EPA. Robert confronts Phil at an industry event, leading to an angry exchange. DuPont sends Robert hundreds of boxes, hoping to bury the evidence. Robert finds numerous references to PFOA, a chemical with no references in any medical textbook. In the middle of the night, Robert's pregnant wife Sarah finds him tearing the carpet off the floors and going through their pans. He has discovered that PFOA is perfluorooctanoic acid, used to manufacture Teflon and used in American homes for nonstick pans. DuPont has been running tests of the effect of PFOA for decades, finding that it causes cancer and birth defects, but did not make the findings public. They dumped thousands of tons of toxic sludge in a landfill next to Tennant's farm. PFOA and similar compounds are forever chemicals, chemicals that do not leave the blood stream and slowly accumulate.
Mark Ruffalo as Robert Bilott
Anne Hathaway as Sarah Barlage Bilott
Tim Robbins as Tom Terp
Bill Camp as Wilbur Tennant
Victor Garber as Phil Donnelly
Mare Winningham as Darlene Kiger
Dark Waters is a 2019 American legal thriller film directed by Todd Haynes and written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan. The story dramatizes Robert Bilott's case against the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont after they contaminated a town with unregulated chemicals. It stars Mark Ruffalo as Bilott, along with Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, William Jackson Harper, and Bill Pullman.
The film is based on the 2016 New York Times Magazine article "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare" by Nathaniel Rich. The story was first told in the 2007 book "Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8" by Callie Lyons, a Mid-Ohio Valley journalist who covered the controversy as it was unfolding. Parts of the story were also reported by Mariah Blake, whose 2015 article "Welcome to Beautiful Parkersburg, West Virginia" was a National Magazine Award finalist, and Sharon Lerner, whose series "Bad Chemistry" ran in The Intercept. Bilott also wrote a memoir, Exposure, detailing his 20-year legal battle against DuPont.
Dark Waters had a limited theatrical release on November 22, 2019, by Focus Features, and went wide on December 6, 2019. The film received positive reviews from critics and has grossed over $23 million.