The Flint water crisis has caught the attention of a number of celebrities, but few seem more fitting than the tough-talking, stiletto-sporting, legal diva and beloved public figure, Erin Brockovich.
Brockovich was made famous in the 2000 film bearing her name and starring Julia Roberts. A consumer advocate best known for the lawsuit concerning groundwater contamination in Hinkley, California, Erin Brockovich was instrumental in getting Pacific Gas & Electric to reach a multi-million dollar settlement in 1996. The company was sued after an entire community was stricken with illness due to chromium in the drinking water.
Bill Maher welcomed Brockovich on his show February 5.
Maher joked, “What do you think about when we think of toxic disasters, we think of you, first?”
Brockovich explains that no two bodies of water are the same. When you combine two bodies of water, ie, Lake Huron and Flint River, you create a chemical reaction in the water.
She told Maher there was an increased risk of miscarriage in women exposed to methane in water. She included the description of other horrors such as “brain-eating amoebas.” She said the Flint water crisis is the tip of the iceburg.
“You know what pisses me off? All of this is happening because of corrupt politics and f*cking greed, and it has to stop.”
Maher included powerhouse Gloria Steinem on his panel.
Since she famously clobbered P.G.&E., Brockovich has been a champion for environmental awareness. As Stephen Colbert said, “You are like Water Batman!”
— erin brockovich (@ErinBrockovich) January 29, 2016
Brockovich told Rolling Stone Magazine that citizens of Flint were coming to her asking for help over a year ago.
“Whenever there is a water contamination [problem], because of the film Erin Brockovich, people just think: Erin Brockovich.”
She said that they were contacting her through her website. At that time, she was out of the country, but she dispatched a water quality expert, Robert Bowcock, who came to Flint and tested the water. MLive published an article about his visit. Bowcock scheduled meetings with Mayor Dayne Walling, Director of Public Works Howard Croft and Councilman Wantwaz Davis.
At that time, Bowcock noticed that there was a heavy amount of chlorine in the water.
“I think every time they had a problem, they threw another chemical at it.”
The Flint River water, he said at the time, if treated properly, could be vastly improved.
Over the past months, Brockovich has been extremely vocal about Flint, encouraging change and trying to bring awareness to the problem.
She described to Rolling Stone how it’s been very difficult to watch the crisis progress, and have her warnings not heeded.
“It’s very frustrating for us. It’s very frustrating for the people of Flint. It’s very frustrating for every community that we’re dealing with throughout the United States. Flint is the tip of the iceberg; this is a national crisis.”
Famously, Brockovich pulls no punches when it comes to getting to the point. As she told Colbert, Flint is just the tip of the iceburg. On January 11 her Facebook page detailed a list of tasks for Governor Snyder to follow:
“I have heard the calls for Governor Snyder’s resignation, criminal prosecution and even execution… I thought about this long and hard over the weekend, and having been to this rodeo before… think its better to ask the Governor not to step down… but to STEP UP.”
“When I say STEP UP… I mean STEP UP, here is a list of ten items the Governor must “step up to” and perform immediately.
1. Provide free access to alternative drinking water supplies (bottled water) for all Flint residents and transient community guests to be provided by the State of Michigan.
2. Require that all drinking water taps in Flint be equipped with proper ion exchange resin filters specifically designed and certified for the removal of lead and provide direct immediate distribution, installation, and maintenance of these filters by licensed plumbers.
3. Order the immediate implementation of sound nutrition and education programs in Flint. Vitamin C, iron, and calcium—all important in a healthy diet— reduce lead levels. Monitor all at risk children in order to facilitate early interventions.
4. Issue an immediate order stopping the billing, collection, and service discontinuance activities for all Flint water consumers. Provide refunds for all water bills to consumers back to December 31, 2014. The State of Michigan shall fund the water system operations and maintenance until the system is restored.
5. Provide funding for repair or replacement of all damaged infrastructure within the City of Flint water system.
6. Provide a fund for repair or replacement of all damaged consumer property. This should include a claims system for water damage as a result of leaks caused by the corrosion as well as damage to appliances and fixtures (including, but not limited to hot water heaters, dish washers, clothes washers, ice machines, water treatment systems, commercial equipment, and faucets).
7. Write a personal letter to each of the Governors of the other 49 States describing in detail what happened to the water system in Flint, what your response was and what it should have been, and, finally, warning them of the potential of the same thing happening in their Drinking Water systems that; 1. Seasonally switch sources of water, 2. Have switched to chloramine disinfection to comply with Stage II Disinfection Byproduct Rule and, 3. Fail to properly administer the Lead & Cooper Rule and fail to provide clear and thorough Consumer Confidence Reports.
8. Send a letter to the President of the United States demanding USEPA provide proper direction concerning implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act in a uniformed fashion across the nation.
9. Ask Congressman Dan Kildee to establish a bipartisan Congressional Drinking Water Caucus to allow for a forum where all of Congress can become informed about the failure of the Safe Drinking Water Act program, the failure of our infrastructure, and the manipulation of data concealing valuable information for the public consumer.
10. Commit to working with the Michigan Attorney General to insure all violations of the law are prosecuted criminally to their fullest extent. Demand everyone in your administration cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on its investigation.
Much damage has been done in Flint’s community already. We can hope that the next time — and there will be a next time — Brockovich “rings the alarm bell”, the local officials will sit up and take notice.
[Erin Brockovich via Associated Press]