The movie Erin Brockovich portrayed the real life story of an environmental activist and legal clerk by the same name (played by Julia Roberts) who was the key element in filing (and later winning) a lawsuit against California’s Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) for poisoning the town’s drinking water and inflicting the civilians with cancer and a number of other diseases.
Hexavalent chromium was the culprit, a chemical compound used by the Hinkley Compressor Station to stop the effects of corrosion in their cooling tower, the same chemical compound that eventually seeped into the ground and made the water toxic.
Although she had no formal legal training, Brockovich was able to win the pro bono case for a settlement of $333 million dollars, which the afflicted people of the town received.
So now what?
Apparently, back in 2008, the plume of chromium began spreading again. Roberta Walker, the woman who had originally came to Brockovich with documentation of the chromium’s cancer-inducing effects, came to her once again with concerns that the company may be lying about the amount of the compound that currently infests their water, though PG&E claims the levels are low enough.
Starting in January, Brockovich and Bob Bowcock of Integrated Resource Management have taken and tested over 180 water samples, and the results have revealed that the contaminated area is twice as big as the utility’s estimations. The fact the compound has spread well beyond the estimated boundaries is troubling, as well as the fact that some of the levels read higher than the recommended public health goal. About 400 times higher.
PG&E claims they are dedicated to solving this issue, and plan to work with both the community and the water district. They have been sending residents bottled water and are once again, offering to buy potentially affected homes.
Walker, however, is not convinced of the company’s concerns, calling them “laughable.”
Hopefully, this can all be safely and fairly resolved before anyone is hurt by the effects again. Come on, PG&E, water you waiting for?