Springfield News-Sun

Erin Brockovich in Middletown calls train derailment a ‘fiasco’

Environmen­tal advocate spoke Thursday night as part of lecture series at MUM.

- By Rick Mccrabb Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN — Well-known environmen­tal advocate Erin Brockovich urged those who attended the Alex and Lena Casper Memorial Lecture series Thursday night to become involved in their communitie­s before a catastroph­e happens.

When the Norfolk Southern train derailment occurred Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, Brockovich said she immediatel­y started getting messages from concerned citizens about the toxic chemical fire. She went to East Palestine last month, talked to residents and appeared at one of the several high-profile town hall meetings.

Brockovich, speaking to a packed crowd inside Dave Finkelman Auditorium on the Miami University Middletown campus, said she has worked as an environmen­tal activist for 30 years and she has “never seen as big a mismanaged fiasco” than in East Palestine.

“I feel so bad for the people,” she said.

At the town hall meeting, Brockovich and an attorney highlighte­d decades of toxic chemical train derailment­s. She has said throughout her appearance­s in East Palestine and again Thursday night that the nation has “covered up” disasters for decades due to potential damaging lawsuits.

Companies, she said, have delayed necessary infrastruc­ture improvemen­ts, tighter regulation­s and faster response to protect the health, safety and welfare of communitie­s from long-term bodily harm and environmen­tal damage.

“Money over families,” she said. “Money over people. We can’t afford to devalue our water, our health, our families.”

She encouraged those in East Palestine to document everything they experience and if they don’t think the water is safe, don’t drink it. If they feel it’s unhealthy to live there, then leave.

“Superman isn’t here,” she said, referring to the title of her second book, “Superman’s Not Coming” that was released three years ago. “But we are here and it’s time for us to believe. The game changer is you. We can’t wait for the situation to happen, then respond. We are better than that. We can stop these type of disasters before they occur.”

Brockovich believes the train derailment can be a “unique moment, a teaching moment, a learning moment” because it may create more railroad regulation­s and lead to safer conditions.

Brockovich, 62, became a national celebrity after Julia Roberts portrayed her in the Oscar-winning Hollywood movie of the same name, The film showcased her role behind the largest medical settlement lawsuit in history.

Her exhaustive investigat­ion uncovered that Pacific Gas & Electric had been poisoning the California town of Hinkley’s water for more than 30 years. With the help of attorney Ed Masry, the resulting 1996 tort injury settlement was the largest of its kind: $333 million in damages to more than 600 residents.

Masry & Vititoe, the law firm for which Brockovich was a legal clerk, received $133.6 million of that settlement, and Brockovich received $2.5 million as part of her fee.

So now Brockovich, president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, and actress Roberts, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in the movie, are forever linked.

Brockovich remembered one time when she was flying and after the TSA agent looked at her driver’s license, he asked: “Where’s Julia?”

The lecture series, started in 1973, is celebratin­g its 50th year, though it was canceled since 2020 due to COVID-19.

 ?? RICK MCCRABB/STAFF ?? After her speaking engagement Thursday night at Miami University Middletown, activist Erin Brockovich signed copies of her second book, “Superman’s Not Coming.”
RICK MCCRABB/STAFF After her speaking engagement Thursday night at Miami University Middletown, activist Erin Brockovich signed copies of her second book, “Superman’s Not Coming.”

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