Erin Brockovich holds town hall meeting in Charleston
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Nationally recognized environmental and legal activist Erin Brockovich and her team conducted a town hall-style meeting at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium Monday night in response to last week's chemical spill.
The meeting drew a few hundred area residents concerned about the water situation and the responses provided by government and other officials.
"Our biggest fear is all this is going to be swept under the rug," one resident said.
The town hall also brought out a woman who said her daughter is suffering severe medical effects of the contaminated water.
Cindy (last name omitted to protect privacy), a South Charleston resident, said her daughter is currently receiving medical care for a form of pneumonia her doctor believes was caused by Thursday's chemical leak.
Cindy said her daughter took a hot shower with the contaminated water, drank the water and washed dishes with it as the "do not use" order was issued.
Cindy said her daughter vomited "jelly-looking stuff" and had trouble breathing. Her eyes were burning and her lungs were producing a pink foam.
"I want to make the public aware of the medical issues," Cindy said.
Others were concerned about the effects of flushing water and industry regulation.
Brockovich said while her organization is continuing to research the leak, she wanted to see area residents to collaborate their efforts to "hold those in position accountable," and said her organization would assist citizen efforts to do so.
"You're the soldier in the trenches," she said.
A woman in the audience volunteered to start a Facebook page, and Brockovich said her organization can publicize that information once it is set up.
Brockovich also told the audience her organization has assisted other communities around the country and gave the example of a "model community" in Carson, Calif., in response to an industrial incident in that city.
"Every single day we deal with a situation like this, but on a smaller magnitude," she said.
Brockovich and one of her organization's environmental investigators, Bob Bocock, said they recommend residents use caution with tap water, even if they live in an area that has been declared safe to use. They reminded residents to throw away all water filters, even those often overlooked, like in refrigerators.
Brockovich said she personally would not drink West Virginia American Water until contaminant levels are consistently zero. Residents also needed to be cautious if tap water seems out of the ordinary, she said.
"You need to be the keeper of your own tap," she said.
Bocock said he believes the chemical will no longer be present in the water system's intake in about a week.
"It will go away," he said.
He said the relative novelty of the chemical, combined with its specific type of use, doesn't leave researchers with much information on its effects.
"The patent for this chemical is only 20 years old, so there's not a whole lot on it," he said.
Concerning practices at Freedom Industries, where the chemical leaked into the river, Bocock said, "Freedom's about as bad as you can get."
Brockovich and her team will leave Charleston Tuesday morning but will continue to assist residents and research the situation.
Meanwhile, Bocock reminded residents to stay vigilant in finding answers.
"Don't let the rest of the country forget," he said.
To see more from the town hall meeting, search the Twitter hashtag, #erinbwv.