Women, Water, and Well-being: Gendered Experiences of Household Water Contamination in Parkersburg, West Virginia
Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Geology and Geography
DuPont Washington Works chemical plant knowingly pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic C8 waste into local waterways, water tables, and landfills for over 40 years, contaminating the drinking water for more than 100,000 residents in and around Parkersburg, West Virginia. Drawing on feminist political ecology and the political ecology of water with literature on perceptions of risk in contaminated communities, environmental reproductive justice, modern water, and hydrosocial waterscapes, I examine, through a qualitative case study, the lived experiences of women who have an intimate understanding of C8 water contamination from the DuPont Washington Works chemical plant. Specifically, I explore how these women conceptualize risk and contamination due to polluted water and the impacts of this risk on their bodies and overall well-being, as well as women’s hope for the future of water quality in Parkersburg.There is growing literature on the lived experience of PFAS or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances exposure, which includes C8 or PFOA, that aims to uncover the often silenced stories of those whose household water security is impacted by these chemicals. This thesis reveals that women experience specific gendered consequences as a result of C8 exposure that includes unequal power relations, altered perceptions of water and risk, complex feelings of hope, and severe reproductive and autoimmune health impacts. I contribute to bridging two areas of literature - feminist political ecology and environmental reproductive justice – in an attempt to create a holistic understanding of women’s everyday experiences of water contamination and highlight the direct relationship between unequal power relations and negative impacts on women’s reproductive health.
Tingler, Emily Brooke, "Women, Water, and Well-being: Gendered Experiences of Household Water Contamination in Parkersburg, West Virginia" (2021). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8285.