Local News

Actor turns spotlight on contaminated water

Posted February 19, 2020 8:04 p.m. EST

— Actor Mark Ruffalo was in Raleigh on Wednesday to promote a new film while also raising awareness about chemicals and drinking water.

Ruffalo, who played the Hulk in the "Avengers" movies as well as starring in such films as "Spotlight," "13 Going on 30" and "Zodiac," is now bringing one town's chemical nightmare to the big screen in "Dark Waters."

In the movie, which is based on a true story, he plays an attorney who sued DuPont for dumping toxic compounds called PFAS in a small West Virginia town. What happened to that town could happen in North Carolina, he said.

PFAS compounds are sometimes called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down. Instead, they build up in the environment and in the human body.

They were created by industrial scientists for use in making Teflon and other products. In the West Virginia case, documents proved DuPont knew for decades the chemical was linked to birth defects, cancer and organ damage, but dumped them into a landfill anyway, where it harmed crops, livestock and people.

DuPont and its spinoff, Chemours, are also the makers of GenX, another forever chemical closely related to the one in the movie. The companies discharged GenX from the Fayetteville Works plant in Bladen County into the Cape Fear River for decades before state regulators stopped it in 2018.

North Carolina still has the highest levels of PFAS contamination in the country. In a study released last month by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, Brunswick County had the highest level of PFAS in its water of any area tested in 31 states – 86 parts per trillion, which is above the upper limit of 70 set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"This is poisoning us," Ruffalo said. "It’s colorless, it’s odorless and we don’t know what the effects are on our bodies and our families for decades to come. It’s been going on and on, and now it’s time to stop."

He said he hopes his film inspires people to stand up against corporate polluters, saying neither the industry nor the government can be trusted to do the right thing.

Ruffalo hosted a screening of "Dark Waters" at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Raleigh on Wednesday night, and he also held a screening in Wilmington on Tuesday.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.