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Three Powerful Films Dealing with Big Business Water Contamination Based on Real Cases

A Civil Action (1998)

A Civil Action (1998), the legal drama written and directed by Steven Zaillian, is based on the 1995 non-fiction book with the eponymous title by Jonathan Harr. It recounts the true story of the landmark 1986 case pertaining to environmental pollution that took place in Woburn, Massachusetts, in the 1980s, when trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene were found contaminating the town’s water supply. The plaintiffs were represented by Jan Schlichtmann, who led them through one of the first high profile suits involving pollution by a major corporation.

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Erin Brockovich (2000), the biographical legal drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant, is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich. The plot revolves around Brockovich, then a single mom working for a legal practice, who discovers a corporate coverup regarding the chromium contaminated water in her community, and the subsequent fight to hold Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) accountable for its culpability in the Hinkley, Minnesota, groundwater contamination incident.

Dark Waters (2019)

Dark Waters (2019), the legal thriller directed by Todd Haynes and written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan, dramatizes Robert Bilott's case against the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont, which contaminated a landfill in Parkersburg, West Virginia, with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C-8. It’s based on a number of published works about the case, but heavily draws from the 2016 New York Times Magazine article "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare" by Nathaniel Rich.


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