Her story started when she was an unknown legal researcher working on what turned out to be the largest medical settlement lawsuit in history. Brockovich’s advocacy continued, and now people from all over the country contact her for help.
“They’re not being heard; They’re drinking poisoned water,” she says, explaining that frustrated consumers call and email her, sending photos and copies of water bills.
“It hasn’t stopped. It doesn’t stop,” adds Brockovich, who was portrayed on the big screen by actress Julia Roberts, who won an Oscar and Golden Globe for the performance. In real life, Brockovich is still a star for the many people and causes she champions.
Acknowledging the truth
Water contamination is a problem in over two-thirds of the United States. Still, it’s not always an easy topic for people to think about or talk about. They may hide from the issue because they’re afraid or don’t want to know the answer. “The problem is here. How are we going to deal with it?” asks Brockovich, who isn’t afraid to ask tough questions or to look for connections between illnesses and poor water quality.
“For me, I’d rather know the truth, because then I can take the necessary steps to protect my family and my health,” she says. No matter the level of toxins in water, she says the concern is the same: “It’s poison, and I don’t want to drink it.”
Though she’s been a consumer and environmental advocate for a long time, Brockovich isn’t jaded. “I still believe in people,” she says. “I still believe when we’re involved, we can work with these agencies and we can work with policies. We can work together for clean water for everybody.”
She’s committed to bettering communities and protecting “valuable resources” — people. For years, lead and other chemicals in drinking water has been an ongoing problem. Brockovich says now is the time to take action. “People think government is taking care of it, and they’re not,” she says, urging consumers to not be complacent about what she calls a “sad situation.”
Joining the fight
Water quality is essential, says Brockovich, who believes that “this should not be a political issue.” She says, instead of playing a political blame game, lawmakers need to work together to ensure water is safe to drink. “I do not believe, whether if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you want to watch a child or spouse suffer through a disease like cancer and any association with contaminated water,” she says, noting chemicals in water are “running rampant.”
The solution? Working together with honesty and cooperation. “It’s going to take everyone,” she says, encouraging concerned communities to band together with information at the local level. An example she cites comes from Hannibal, Missouri, where residents were upset about the use of chlorine and ammonia in their community’s water purification process. Residents contacted Brockovich and worked to get a no ammonia referendum on the ballot. They were successful. “That’s the power of people when they are informed,” she says. “Know your facts and get involved.”
Community meetings are one way to get connected, but, these days, citizens are coming together online, on web sites and forums as well as social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Brockovich says social media is a powerful tool, especially since, for many people, seeing is believing. “Once there’s a picture,” she says, people often start to pay attention to an issue.
She reminds citizens to stay informed, and, she advises, “don’t be afraid to ask questions.”