CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Activist Erin Brockovich, whose involvement in a case alleging contaminated drinking water in a California town was depicted in a movie starring Julia Roberts, says West Virginians deserve answers to their questions about a recent chemical spill.
“They are cautiously watching what’s happening and asking really good questions and, I think, they’re being proactive,” said Brockovich on Monday’s MetroNews “Hotline.”
Brockovich lead a town hall meeting in Charleston on Monday night after, she said, about 5,000 West Virginians reached out to her through her website, www.brockovich.com, while a do-not-use water order continued for upwards of 300,000 people.
Those people are customers of West Virginia American Water Company in parts of nine West Virginia counties and, since last Thursday, they’ve been instructed to only use the water coming into their homes and businesses to flush toilets because of concerns about possible contamination.
An estimated 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM, made up primarily of 4-methylcylohexane methane, leaked from a storage tank at Freedom Industries along the Elk River in Charleston back on Thursday.
Officials with state government, the West Virginia National Guard and WVAW have spent the time since the spill trying to determine the possible effects the chemical, which is used in coal preparation, could have on health, while also monitoring its dilution in the water.
Brockovich said this case is similar to many of the cases she has dealt with before now in that, she says, she thinks profits were put ahead of safety and that lead to the chemical leak that eventually made its way into the water supply.
“We have got to start changing the way we do business….It cannot be this way anymore because we are all paying the price,” said Brockovich. “I think we’ve become way laissaz faire about our safety.”
On Monday, the do-not-use water orders started being lifted by zones.
The area near the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant, largely the heart of Charleston, was the first where residents were given the go-ahead to flush their plumbing systems. After flushing was completed, WVAW and state officials said they believed the water would be safe for laundry, cooking, bathing and drinking.
A team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board was scheduled to arrive in Charleston on Monday to launch an investigation into the spill.