What Can Erin Brockovich Teach Us About Water Treatment and Chromium-6?

You Can Be a Water Treatment Hero

Have you heard of Erin Brockovich? Most people know her as the titular protagonist of the 2000 Oscar-winning film starring Julia Roberts. But do you know what makes the real Erin Brockovich such a hero? It’s her advocacy for clean water and better water treatment!

Brockovich established her reputation in 1996. That year she led a class-action lawsuit against a company that had been polluting the water in Hinkley, CA with hexavalent chromium (also known as chromium-6). The resulting settlement of $333 million was the largest in U.S. history.

Her willingness to speak out and act in this case was crucial. It drew attention to the less-than-stellar water treatment taking place. Plus, it brought restitution to the over 600 people whose health had been adversely affected by the pollution.

Recently, Erin Brockovich put out a new book called Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It. This book serves as a rallying cry for the citizens of this country. It urges us to take action since the government isn’t doing nearly enough to protect our water.

So, what can we learn from Erin and her new book? As we will see, she provides some crucial lessons on how we should view water treatment and how we can fight back against harmful pollutants like chromium-6.

Lesson 1: The Water Treatment War is Far from Over

Although the movie Erin Brockovich has a happy ending, things weren’t as neat and tidy in real life. Erin may have won the lawsuit, but unfortunately, problems continued to persist—both in the town of Hinkley, CA, and throughout the country.

Despite their victory over 20 years ago, the town of Hinkley still struggles with the effects of chromium-6 contamination to this day. Cleanup efforts are ongoing, and the town must remain vigilant against further deception and pollution.

Hinkley’s continued struggle should serve as a cautionary tale for towns around the country. The moral of the story is contamination doesn’t go away overnight. We all need to continue to fight for clean water.

Brockovich drives this point home continually in her book. She cites example after example of how Hinkley’s problem has reared its ugly head in cities and towns throughout America.

Here in Chicagoland, for example, harmful pollutants abound in the drinking water. Some of the most common contaminants include lead, chloroform, radium and chromium-6. Ingesting too much of these can cause terrible health issues, such as cancer and congenital defects.

So, clearly, this battle is certainly one we all have a stake in and should be willing to fight. After all, as we will see, the government isn’t doing much to fight for us.

Lesson 2: The Government Won’t Save You

As problems persist, one thing remains abundantly clear, the government isn’t doing nearly enough to clean up the water. Erin makes this one of the central arguments of her book. In fact, the title Superman’s Not Coming alludes to the idea that people shouldn’t rely on a powerful entity to fix their problems. After all, our lawmakers have repeatedly shown that they’ll fail us.

To demonstrate the government’s failure, let’s look at how they’ve handled the contaminant Brockovich is most famous for: chromium-6.

Graphic featuring facts about Chromium-6

Chromium-6 Contamination

Industrial companies throughout the country regularly produce large amounts of chromium-6 as a coolant in their projects. Chromium-6 pollution occurs when companies irresponsibly dispose of their waste. Oftentimes, they deposit it in unlined ponds, and then it leaches into the ground water. Sometimes accidental spills can also occur, such as a 2017 spill in Lake Michigan.

Any amount of this harmful contaminant in the water is alarming. After all, even in small doses, it can cause pneumonia, stomach cancer and complications during childbirth. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit activist group, made this clear when they set their recommended limit at 0.02 ppb. The government, on the other hand, has not drawn nearly as hard a line.

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Unlike the EWG, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sets the legal limit for total chromium in the water at 100 ppb. This limit is far too high to protect people from the harmful effects of chromium-6.

So, the natural question to ask is, why doesn’t the government have a stricter standard? The answer has a lot to do with both money and politics.

Government Failure

Sadly, the government won’t make the necessary spending to defend against chromium-6 and doesn’t want to be held responsible for not doing so. To filter the hexavalent chromium out of the water, the government would need to invest in reverse osmosis filtration systems. But this would be a costly investment. So, instead, officials seem content to maintain a dangerously high legal limit to avoid liability when people get sick as a result.

Erin Brockovich rails against such governmental malpractice in her book. It’s important to call out what the powers that be aren’t doing because too often people assume that they’re doing enough. Thankfully, people like Erin are out there drawing attention to these issues.

Lesson 3: It’s Good to Have an Inquisitive Mind

Erin would have never drawn attention to the problem with hexavalent chromium in Hinkley without an inquisitive mind. After all, her inquisitiveness led her to investigate the alarming rates of sickness in the community.

We as citizens should follow Brockovich’s example when it comes to our own water. Don’t just assume the water that comes out of your tap is safe. As we’ve seen, there’s a very good chance it could be contaminated!

Instead of assuming, take action to protect your health by getting your water tested. By regularly testing your water, you can proactively protect your health. At Angel Water, we recommend getting it tested at least once a year at an EPA-approved facility.

You may wonder why you would need to repeatedly test your water. The truth is contamination can change over time, especially if you have well water. Your water may contain certain contaminants one month and different ones the next. By staying on top of it, you can be sure you’re investing in the right water treatment systems to keep you and your family safe.

 Image of a person collecting tap water for water testing
Getting your water tested regularly is a great way to protect your health.

Lesson 4: You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Do Something

Erin Brockovich isn’t a scientist or a doctor. And she certainly wasn’t an expert on water treatment when she led the lawsuit for Hinkley in 1996. She was just a concerned citizen like the rest of us. However, that hasn’t stopped her from advocating for clean water to protect people’s health.

It’s amazing to see the type of difference Erin was able to make with a little determination. If one person can make as big an impact as she has, imagine what could happen if we all stepped up!

There are many ways to make a difference. It starts with finding out what’s in your local water and what’s being done about it. Next, you can educate yourself on the best water treatment and filtration available. By taking the time to learn, you will be equipped to advocate for your health and the health of those around you.

And you’re not alone! People all over the country are getting involved to protect the water in their communities. Brockovich highlights a way people are doing this in her book. She has started a resource called the Community Healthbook. It’s a site were people can go to post and share information about health issues in their communities. We’d recommend checking it out.

Become a Water Treatment Warrior

We hope this blog has encouraged you to keep up the fight for clean water. While pollution is still a huge problem, we can overcome it together.

To learn more about what you can do, we’d encourage you to read Erin Brockovich’s new book Superman’s Not Coming. You can also watch our own Andrew Wilson discuss the book on YouTube.

As always, if you need help defending your water, you can contact Angel Water at 847-447-2758. We provide the water testing and water treatment equipment necessary to protect your health.

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