EXCLUSIVE: 21 News talks with Erin Brockovich about Friday's East Palestine townhall
Environmental Activist Erin Brockovich arrived in East Palestine Thursday ahead of a town hall Brockovich is hosting Friday.
She said she hopes to be a voice for citizens impacted by the train derailment and controlled chemical explosion, as she's been watching it unfold.
Most know Brockovich from her self-titled film starring Julia Roberts, based on a true story. In the 90s, she spearheaded a major lawsuit working as a legal clerk against a California utility company, after hundreds of people got sick from groundwater contamination.
Decades later, she continues fighting for environmental safety as an advocate and legal consultant.
"We're still finding chemicals out in Hinkley, California today," she said, "PG&E is under a 100-year cleanup."
Brockovich said she has dedicated her career to learning and uncovering contaminates across the country, with experience working on at least 40 cases, including other derailments.
"Here I am... 30 years later... and in between all that time doing environmental situations... and agencies we trust... oversee us...," she said, "Why am I here? Why does this continue to happen? What problems are we not fixing? What are we not looking at?"
Although she said every contamination case she's worked on has parallels, she hasn't witnessed anything quite like the East Palestine disaster because she's watching the aftermath unfold in real-time.
"This is something I haven't seen in my career," Brockovich said, "I'm here today because the community by hundreds and hundreds have been reaching out to me since the 4th of February."
She said almost all incidents she's been a part of have some things in common: concerned citizens, a long road ahead, and unanswered questions.
You don't need to be a scientist or have a Ph.D. to question toxic contamination after witnessing a plum of black smoke involving hazardous chemicals, she said.
"[East Palestine residents] are more than capable of critical thinking, their common sense is working for them. They're rooted to their land and their air and somethings wrong, and they're going to keep pushing until they find out and get the answers they deserve," she said, "They're the ones that just were exposed. We need to be learning from them. The EPA needs to be learning from them."
Brockovich advises the people of East Palestine to document every health concern, follow their instincts, continue to ask questions and use their voice.
Erin Brockovich's town hall is Friday evening at 6 pm to answer the public's questions at the East Palestine High School auditorium. Click here to register.