Where regulatory agencies are overworked and underfunded, it is up to the individual to respond when life and environment fall victim to irresponsible corporate practices, Erin Brockovich told attendees of a Conway lecture series Monday.
Brockovich, the first in a series of lectures sponsored by the Log Cabin Democrat and the University of Central Arkansas slated for Reynolds Performance Hall, is the former file clerk whose research is credited in one of the largest toxic injury settlements in US history and the woman who inspired the Oscar-winning movie that bears her namesake.
For 21 years, Brockovich said, she has been advocating for corporate transparency, for the responsible use of resources and for individual empowerment.
The speaker opened with words of warning.
"We are on a collision course," Brockovich said in regard to the environment.
"The time has come for us to find a new way to do business...to find ways we can give back to the planet we’ve taken so much from. It is the only thing that has continually sustained us all - the earth."
Proper disposal of waste, the preservation of elements and a "system of transparency and trust between companies, the community" and in dealings with the environment were necessary for the future of life on earth, Brockovich said.
Brockovich gave a brief update on residents of the town featured in "Erin Brockovich."
Of approximately 630 Hinkley, Calif. residents represented in the case against Pacific Gas & Electric, 54 have died since the movie’s release, Brockovich said.
Cleanup of the poison Chromium 6 is ongoing in the California town, and according to Brockovich, the toxin will not be eradicated for about 1,000 years.
Since her mission and movie aired, the proclaimed consumer advocate has received countless reports by e-mail of communities reporting similar occurrences.
Today, she is president of Brockovich Research and Consulting and is involved in numerous environmental projects worldwide.
On her radar, she said, was Arkansas’s "issue of hydro-fracking."
"I get e-mails from people all over...that the process is depleting water supplies everywhere. I am very aware of the situation you have here and in Pennsylvania with hydro-fracking."
In a question and answer session, an audience member holding a report said to contain statements that fracking fluid used in natural gas extraction would be fed into Cadron Creek asked Brockovich what a course of action might be.
Brockovich told the audience member that she has seen similar frustration expressed by groups "everywhere."
Brockovich said that in instances where agencies "might not be doing anything," her group is able to conduct independent tests that are then compared with those of a corporation.
"I don’t want to put down our agencies who are overburdened. We can come out and assist and get data...Hydro-fracking is a problem everywhere and we’re well aware of it. It will be a battle. This is the way that they want to get that gas. Without someone like you and communities stepping up saying that you are not going to let this happen any more...everything will fall through the cracks."
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)