2016 Digital Storytelling Contest, Immersive Storytelling, 3rd prize

Welcome to Parkersburg West Virginia

In the late 1940s DuPont built the Washington Works Plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, a facility that was to become one of the chief production sites of the revolutionary non-stick material Teflon. Almost immediately it became clear to DuPont officials that C8, a soapy chemical that gives Teflon its nonstick quality, was toxic—even deadly.

For decades, DuPont engaged in an increasingly elaborate cover-up of the toxicity of C8. In that time, Parkersburg residents who drank the water and hunted the game around Washington Works started getting really, really sick— testicular cancer in teenagers, hive breakouts from shower water, and massive congenital deformities became all but commonplace. But the people of the town are fighting back. In September 2015, the first of more than 3,500 lawsuits claiming damages against DuPont for C8 poisoning began. Reporter Mariah Blake went to Parkersburg to meet with many of the plaintiffs, through which she weaves a history of the C8 dumping in Parkersburg, the long and arduous journey through the courts, and the miles-deep indifference—in some cases complicity—of the environmental regulators we pay our taxes to fund.

Production team

    Director/Producer & Photography: Emily Kassie
    Associate Producer: Jon Strauss
    Writer: Mariah Blake
    Editor: Greg Veis
    Editor: Rachel Morris
    Researcher: Raillan Brooks