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Erin Brockovich speaks out for justice for victims of toxic water aboard Camp Lejeune

Erin Brockovich.jpg
(Photo: Annette Weston-Riggs, Public Radio East
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A tearful Erin Brockovich apologized for being emotional while speaking at a town hall meeting regarding the toxic water aboard Camp Lejeune. It’s something that, and if you’ve seen the film you’ll know, is out of character for her.

A town hall meeting in Jacksonville, 7.7 miles from the main gate, addressed the years-long water contamination at Camp Lejeune, providing information for those impacted and introducing advocates for those people.

In attendance, perhaps one of the best-known fighters for clean water and for holding organizations accountable for water contamination, Erin Brockovich.

A 2000 film bearing her name was Brockovich’s personal story about the fight against the energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company after it was discovered PG&E contaminated the groundwater in Hinkley, California.

The film, starring Julia Roberts, was a box-office success and acclaimed by most movie critics as well.

At the outset of the town hall, a tearful Brockovich apologized for being emotional. It’s something that, and if you’ve seen the film you’ll know, is out of character for her.

“I think that the last time I cried – I feel these emotions but not publicly, in private – was when I was in Hinckley,” she said.

In 1982, testing showed that the water supply aboard parts of U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals. However, the wells weren’t shut down for at least three more years.

Brockovich, a military mom herself, says that is what prompted her unexpected tears.

She said, “It hurts that all of us, military and beyond, have had this idea (that) who was looking out for us was our government, yet they were the very hands that did not disclose the truth to these amazing men and women and their families.”

Brockovich also had a message for those who raised their families on the base.

“I saw so many mothers in the original case that I worked on that resulted in the film that carried the grief that, ‘I did this. This was my fault. I should have known better,’” she said, “Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not a black eye on the Marines. This is a black eye on the United States of America government in concealing that they were knowingly poisoning their own.”

The toxic water is thought to have poisoned hundreds of thousands of people living and working on base.

President Joe Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act into law in August, following a several decades fight that advocates took before Congress and the Supreme Court; it allows people to sue and recover damages for harm from exposure to the contaminated water if they spent at least 30 days on base, including those who were in-utero and born by mothers who drank the water, between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

Following the passage of the act into law, a proliferation of advertisements on television, radio and the web by law firms hoping to cash in on a share of the settlement began showing up. The group Brockovich is working with, Camp Lejeune Legal, has not done any such advertising.

“Somebody put on my Facebook, we were talking about all the advertising, and they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, the trial lawyers have turned into worse than my pillow guy,’” she said, “And I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! Wow!’

Camp Lejeune Legal is hosting a series of town hall events in communities near military installations nationwide, offering legal representation to those impacted by the toxic water.

Friday night they will be at American Legion Post 265 in Jacksonville starting at 6 p.m. A town hall will be held in Wilmington on Saturday at American Legion Post 10 at 9 a.m.

More information about the meetings and the group can be found online HERE.