Free Dark Waters screening to call attention to contaminants

Representatives Cortvriend, Speakman bills limiting PFAS to be part of discussion

The following information was provided by the Rhode Island General Assembly.

Environmental advocates will host a free screening of the new film “Dark Waters” at Providence Place Cinemas Monday, with a discussion about efforts to curb the dangers posed by PFAS chemicals, including legislation sponsored by Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Rep. June S. Speakman.

The event, scheduled Monday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. at Providence Place Cinemas, 10 Providence Place, is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Clean Water Action, Conservation Law Foundation and Talking Toxins with Trina. For more information or to register for the event, visit Eventbrite.

The film, based on a true story, stars Mark Ruffalo as unlikely hero Rob Bilott – a chemical company lawyer who turns the tables to sue DuPont for polluting the area around its West Virginia plant.  Until then, no one outside the chemical industry had heard of PFAS chemicals — but he discovered that the companies that made them knew they were toxic all along. Still, the companies put them in products from nonstick pans to firefighting foam.

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The showing will be preceded by a discussion of PFAS chemicals and what can be done about them in Rhode Island. PFAS— per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances —are commonly used in nonstick and stain-repellent coatings, as well as firefighting foam and thousands of other applications. These dangerous chemicals do not break down over time; they remain in the environment – and humans’ bloodstreams – for decades, and they are toxic. PFAS have been identified in drinking water around the state, including a contamination in the Oakland section of Burrillville that required the village to connect to a different water system last year.

“The federal government has been virtually ignoring corporate polluters, so states like Rhode Island need to take the action necessary to protect our drinking water and food. Safe drinking water and food is a necessity and a human right, and Rhode Islanders deserve to have that right protected,” said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown).

She and Representative Speakman plan to attend the event to discuss their legislation to prohibit PFAS from being used in food packaging in Rhode Island (2020-H 7307, sponsored by Representative Cortvriend), and to set limits on PFAS contamination in drinking water and enhance state monitoring, testing and reporting requirements (2020-H 7216, sponsored by Representative Speakman).

“There are a lot of things we don’t know about many of the chemicals that wind up in drinking water from manufacturing and other industries, but we do know that many are dangerous to public health and cause a variety of health problems. While we gather more information, I firmly believe we should be erring on the side of protecting the public rather than on the side of polluters. It is absolutely critical that public drinking water supplies are safe,” said Representative Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol).

The sponsors of the event support the legislation.

“Toxic PFAS have no place in our bodies, our food, or our drinking water,” said Amy Moses, vice president and Rhode Island director of Conservation Law Foundation. “With the federal government ignoring its responsibility to protect the public from these dangerous chemicals, Rhode Island must pass legislation that ensures that our drinking water and food packaging are safe.”

Said Michelle Beaudin, program coordinator with Clean Water Action, “For years chemical companies knew the dangers of PFAS and hid them from the public. Now that we know about the toxic effects of PFAS we must do what we can to stop exposing people through food packaging as well as protecting people at the tap, particularly low-income communities and communities of color that are already overburdened.”