CRESTVIEW HILLS, Kentucky — An Ohio lawyer whose battle with Dupont over deadly contamination in West Virginia inspired the movie “Dark Waters” continues to take his message on the road. He has some advice for the people of East Palestine.

Robert Bilott took on Dupont, alleging the chemical company contaminated the soil and water in West Virginia, sickening people and animals with toxic chemicals that never break down. They’re used in Teflon and some stain-resistant items. Actor Mark Ruffalo portrayed Bilott in the movie, Dark Waters.

What You Need To Know

  • Attorney Robert Bilott secured millions of dollars in settlements against Dupont Chemical alleging their chemicals contaminated soil and water near a plant in West Virginia

  • Bilott inspired the movie, "Dark Waters," starring Mark Ruffalo who played the Ohio attorney

  • Bilott believes the people of E. Palestine need to know the same kinds of answers about chemicals involved in the train derailment that the people he represented in West Virginia

​“Since the movie came out in 2019, there’s been an incredible surge in awareness across not only the United States but all over the globe about the threat these P-fos, forever chemicals,” Bilott said. “These man-made toxins are turning up in our water and soil and all of our blood. People are becoming aware of that now.”

Bilott said that’s leading to new laws and other measures here in Ohio and around the world:

“We’re seeing the laws change, we’re seeing regulations change. We’re seeing global bans being proposed,” he said.

Bilott said medical research shows those chemicals have caused more deaths than the COVID crisis.

“Medical researchers actually calculated some 6-million deaths in the U.S. since 1999 being attributable to these chemicals,” Bilott said. “And not only that, but tens of billions of dollars in health care impacts.”

Bilott has a message for the people of East Palestine.

“To make sure that they gain access to information about what these chemicals are, how much was actually released, what is actually known about the health impacts,” Bilott said. “And most importantly, the long-range impact of these chemicals. What’s their ability to get into the soil or the water or into people, to thoroughly understand the impact here.”

Bilott’s making an impact when he travels to university campuses in the Greater Cincinnati region and across the country, like Thomas More University in Northern Kentucky, where Bilott spoke with pre-law and science students in a guest lecture.

“He made a lot of enemies doing what he did but of course, he did the right thing and I think that speaks to doing the right thing and inspirational, really,” said Bo Stoll, a junior who hopes to become a doctor and potentially a medical researcher.

Maria Rice plans to study environmental law at Ohio State, where Bilott earned his law degree.

“This was something I didn’t know much about so hearing him talk about it and learning all the different things he went through during this process was very interesting,” said Maria Rice, a TMU senior who will be studying environmental law at Ohio State, where Bilott earned his law degree. “I definitely want to learn more,” she said.     

“These are big societal problems,” Bilott said. “How we regulate chemicals in this country, how do we create the science that’s necessary to tell people what the threats are so these are all big issues and to see somebody inspired to tackle those is great.”