Dark Waters: Where Are Joe and Darlene Kiger Now?

With Todd Haynes’ ‘Dark Waters’ carefully chronicling the real-life tale of attorney Robert Bilott as he does his best to bring down a corporate giant, we get a legal thriller unlike any other. After all, this multinational is actually chemical manufacturer DuPont, which severely contaminated rural West Virginia by disposing of unregulated toxic waste across its local communities. And amongst those to thus be affected by it were local Parkersburg natives Joseph “Joe” and Darlene Kiger, who ended up being the former’s lead plaintiffs in a 2001 class-action lawsuit.

Who Are Joe and Darlene Kiger?

Although it’s unclear precisely when Joe first came across Darlene or fell head over heels in love, we do know they were both well into adulthood at the time and had been previously married. Their own union was thus as smooth sailing as possible since they’d reportedly learned from the past, meaning they’d ensured to build themselves on communication, respect, plus understanding. However, the universe still threw them a curveball and turned their lives upside down around the early 2000s after they’d received a peculiar note from the Lubeck/Wood County water district.

According to reports, Joe had found it strange because it explained that an unregulated chemical called PFOA had been detected in the water, yet it was in “low concentrations” per standards. It also asserted there was no health risk involved and that this letter was purely informational, but the truth is these “standards” had been set by the chemical-releasing company itself. Particular DuPont-related phrases such as “support confidence” as well as “‘protective of human health” bothered him too, especially since his wife had already told him about her ex-husband.

Darlene’s first husband had actually been a chemist at this corporation’s local plant, so he often received a lot of perks in the form of their kids’ education, mortgage payments, and free goods. Amongst the latter was a direct supply of PFOA, which the housewife admittedly used as soap in their dishwasher and to clean their car, only for it to always work wonders within mere moments. Yet the one thing that still bothered her was how her ex sometimes came home sick after freely working in a PFOA tank; just for this occurrence to be so common, employees called it the “Teflon flu.”

Then there’s the fact that in 1976 Darlene’s then-husband had told her he was not allowed to bring his work clothes home anymore – she vividly remembers this because she’d recently given birth to their second child and he’d said the reason behind this change was that DuPont had found PFOA was causing health problems in women and birth defects in children. Little did she know they’d soon reverse this order, not long after which she’d have to undergo an emergency hysterectomy at age 36, followed by a second surgery eight years later — the couple was trying for baby #3 at the time.

Joe and Darlene Kiger Don’t Regret Anything

Joe and Darlene did face backlash when they ultimately decided to serve as lead plaintiffs in a massive 70,000-people class-action lawsuit against DuPont since they employed most people in their small town, but they’re glad they went ahead with it. In fact, it appears as if they’d do so again if required because “We see a situation that has gone from Washington Works, to statewide, to the United States, and now it’s everywhere, it’s global. We’ve taken the cap off something here. But it’s just not DuPont. Good God. There are 60,000 unregulated chemicals out there right now. We have no idea what we’re taking.” Until then, from what we can tell, the couple is determined to lead a quiet, comfortable life in their hometown of Parkersburg, where Joe seemingly still serves as a physical education teacher.

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