Erin Brockovich’s efforts to expose a utility company's contamination of California groundwater were made famous in a 2000 film bearing her name.
Julia Roberts played the role of real-life legal clerk Erin Brockovich, who investigated Pacific Gas and Electric Company in the mid-1990s for the dumping of hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical, in Hinkley, California.
The heavy metal is used as an anti-corrosive agent in several industries.
“It’s a very toxic compound,” Brockovich said.
In 1996, that company paid a historic $333-million settlement in response to a class action lawsuit on which Brockovich served as lead plaintiff.
Hexavalent chromium is also at the heart of a federal lawsuit aimed at U.S. Steel for illegal discharges of the chemical into Lake Michigan from the company’s Portage, Indiana plant which violate the Clean Water Act.
“I think that all of us are really starting to wake up to these environmental issues,” Brockovich said. “The more chemicals you add to water and the more pollution you have to water, it’s just not a good outcome for public health and welfare, for the wildlife and it shouldn’t be in our water.”
Brockovich sits down with Brandis Friedman to discuss environmental concerns both past and present, near and far from the Chicago area.
Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia