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Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio and Brigida Santos talk about how tens of thousands of residents in the state of Colorado have been poisoned by contaminated water.

Transcript:

Mike:
When the news broke more than two years ago that water in Flint, Michigan was contaminated with dangerous amounts of lead, the corporate media finally, finally was forced to begin paying attention to the water crisis in the United States. A massive USA Today report came out showing that more than 2,000 areas in the United States were suffering from a lead contamination crisis that exceeded the levels found in Flint. In almost overnight, the corporate media moved on to cover stories that were far less important, but were guaranteed to generate ratings and add dollars for their corporate sponsors. The sad reality that we live in today is that millions of Americans live in areas where their drinking water is too contaminated to be considered safe for consumption. Chemicals and elements like lead, mercury and other pollutants are running through tap water in households all over this country.

A clear example of this is the water Colorado residents have been drinking from Fountain Creek watershed. This is a watershed that not only provides water to recreational areas like rivers and lakes, but also drinking water to about 80,000 residents in three different Colorado cities. It turns out that it’s overly polluted with PFCs. According to the government’s own admissions, PFCs were leaked into the Fountain Creek watershed from the Peterson Air Force base in Colorado, after a load of firefighting foam was spilled. The base did virtually nothing to alert residents who depend on the watershed for their water supply, of the dangers that were now facing those communities. No warnings at all. Some of those dangers are listed by the government’s own toxic substances agency as follows. For example, PFCs have been linked to neurological defects in unborn children. They act as an endocrine disruptors and throw off hormones in the human body. They’ve been linked to an increase rates of cancer. They even weaken the immune system, and they can impair reproductive systems in human beings and in animals.

One of the worst characteristics about these chemicals is that they take so long to biodegrade that they’re considered persistent. In other words, you can’t remove them from water by boiling the water and filtering it out. It’s tens of thousands of people in the Fountain Creek watershed begin to learn the truth about the chemicals that they’ve been exposed to. They’re getting more questions than answers. Luckily for them, there are dedicated trial lawyers in that state of Colorado working, to not only hold those responsible for this disaster liable, but also to help speed along the efforts, to remove these dangerous chemicals from the environment. Joining me now to discuss this RT America correspondent Brigida Santos. Brigida, start by telling us, how exactly these PFCs entered the watershed. Let’s start there. How’d they get there.

Brigida Santos:
These perfluorinated chemicals seeped into the watershed through fire fighting foam that was being used at the Peterson Air Force base near Colorado Springs. Now, this is a foam that is used in fire training exercises, as well as crash training exercises. Now PFC levels exceed 1,000 times the levels that are set by the National Health Advisory. This happened back in 2016, but the problem persists today. In fact, the University of Colorado has just announced that it has received a $250,000 from the National Institutes of Health that will go toward investigating how these PFCs are affecting the long term health of local residents. That’s a study that has not yet be done. Right now there are almost no studies that investigate the health problems associated with humans, Mike.

Mike:
Brigid, I can tell you this. I know this in other parts of the country, where we’ve seen this before. What we start seeing is clusters of cancer, because these PFCs stay in the body. It’s not like you drink the water and it goes away. As a matter of fact, every time you drink the water, the burden, the amount in your body continues to build and the problem is they persist for sometimes 20 to 25 years in the body. We know that part of it. The ugly thing about it is you said this started in 2016 and they’re just now starting to take a look at what actually happened. What was the Air Force’s response, once they learned that they had created this massive catastrophe for people all up and down that watershed? What was their response for the problem?

Brigida Santos:
Initially, the Air Force said that there were other unknown sources of PFCs contamination. They tried to actually divert the blame. They also said that they would reimburse some of the local municipalities for all the money that they had to spend to provide alternate safe drinking water to people, and they have failed to do that. It wasn’t until July of last year that they sent carbon filters to those areas that have been affected to try and clean some of this up. However, in 2016, the Air Force did announce that it’s now going to be using a different type of foam that it believes is safer. However, there’s a lot of controversy on how they know that, because there have been no studies to prove that to be the fact, Mike.

Mike:
Yeah, the Air Force in this instance, they’re obviously extremely guilty. Their conduct is just reprehensible, because not so much they used it, but that they covered up after they used it. They didn’t tell people, “Hey, you’re drinking a poison that could cause cancer. You’re drinking poison that can cause neurological disease, potentially birth defects,” as we saw in the Ohio River Valley with a similar kind of chemical. The manufacturers of these chemicals have responsibility too, don’t they? Those are the ones that, in this case, I think are facing liability by the lawsuit that’s been brought. Is that correct?

Brigida Santos:
100%. In fact, DuPont and 3M, the two main manufacturers of these products that use these chemicals in the United States, they covered up the health hazards of these chemicals for decades. In fact, they’re tied up in several different lawsuits because of that fact. I would also say that the US government bears some responsibility here because the Environmental Protection Agency has still yet to establish any type of regulatory limits of PFCs in drinking water. The EPA has known for a very long time about the potential harms from these chemicals, Mike.

Mike:
Yeah, I tried several cases in the Ohio River Valley where people were suffering from testicular cancer, kidney cancer, a host of illnesses that were caused by almost the same product. If it’s different, it’s different by very little grade. In the end, every jury that heard the case came back and not only found against DuPont, but they also said that the conduct was so reprehensible in the way that they covered up the dangers of this product. They hit them with punitive damages. In the end, we settled that for almost a billion dollars. It was a fight all along the way until we made the company, we made Dow tell us the truth by way of their documents. We saw the documents and in the end, the jury saw the same material and they were horrified what the conduct of this company was. How many people are potentially affected by this and what areas are in most danger here, Brigida?

Brigida Santos:
In Colorado, wells have been contaminated in three areas. This includes the city of Fountain as well as two unincorporated areas called Security and Widefield. This is an area that serves about 69,000 people. Those wells, they serve that many people. But nationally, PFCs have been found in water sources across the entire nation in almost every single state, near military basis as well as industrial sites. In fact, tap water supply serving 15 million people nationwide have been contaminated and that’s according to water testing data from 2017. Also, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention say that they periodically test Americans’ blood for toxic chemicals. In the latest round of sampling, which is a representative area, they found 98% of Americans have PFCs in their bloodstream. This affects nearly everybody here, Mike.

Mike:
Well as a matter of fact, this weekend I go to the Sundance Film Festival, where a movie was made about the case that I tried up in the Ohio River Valley. It’s called The Devil We Know. In that film, they disclosed the fact that when the initial testing was done to find out how long does this stay in people’s bloodstream. They found it in virtually everybody they tested. The only blood that was clean of the PFC contamination, was blood that was taken prior to the 1950s and was still held over. The blood was taken for military purposes and recruits. That was the only blood that they could find that didn’t have PFC contained in it. The ugly thing about it is DuPont has known this for generations. They’ve known that it’s bio persistent. They’ve known that once it’s in your system it takes 20 years to move through your system. They’ve understood that it causes cancer, neurological disease, a whole host of physical ailments, and they cover it up Brigida.

In the film, this film that’s being released at the Sundance Film Festival, this weekend as a matter of fact, they’re going to be showing that film and it’s startling. The conduct of DuPont and 3M is absolutely startling. It’s the type of conduct where people really should have been thrown in jail. The other thing that’s interesting about it is it also tells a story how the national media ignored the story, completely ignored the story for 50 years in the Ohio River Valley. I’m sure they ignored the story in this case too, but they ignored the story because DuPont and 3M were such big advertisers for them. What is your take on the media’s involvement here?

Brigida Santos:
We cover this all the time on this show and it’s really not surprising, because how many times you turn on the news and the first thing you see a commercial from one of these chemical companies. It’s really unsurprising to see that the national media has not given it the attention that it deserves, especially when nearly every single person has been affected by it. We don’t know how it’s going to affect the health of Americans long term, Mike.

Mike:
I can tell you this. One thing that we really have to do is, if you really want to understand what this case is all about, go look at the trailer for The Devil We know, and you’re going to see in there what DuPont knew and how they work so hard to cover up the truth about how dangerous this product is, and how they’ve unleashed it on the entire world. They even find this PFC in the liver of polar bears in the Arctic. That’s how bad the spread has been. Brigida, thank you for joining me okay.

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Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.