Erin Brockovich Visits Gulf in Advance of Winston-Salem Presentation

Brockovich is currently working on a variety of important environmental projects beyond Louisiana, including a class action lawsuit involving Alcoa’s Australian operations. She will be appearing at Wake Forest to raise awareness in North Carolina of Alcoa’s toxic legacy and endorse the Yadkin Riverkeeper’s efforts in opposing Alcoa’s relicensing application for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project.

Louisiana fishermen contacted Brockovich wanting her help, and she is meeting with them at their homes to talk about their situations. The fishermen have asked BP to provide them with respirators while releasing the dispersant to contain the oil in the water, but BP has said the air is safe and the devices are not needed.

Houma Today reports that nine fishermen from Lafourche Parish became ill last month during cleanup operations, but the cause of the illnesses has not been determined. Some have claimed dispersants made them ill. Brockovich said the concerns are well-founded and that the fishermen should document illnesses and to remain vigilant. She spoke of the similarities between the plight of the fishermen and that of others nationwide who have become ill because of chemical contamination. Brockovich warned them to protect themselves in advance and not be used as “guinea pigs” in the cleanup.

“Erin’s commitment to addressing the concerns of these fishermen is admirable, albeit unfortunately necessary,” said Dean Naujoks, the Yadkin Riverkeeper. “The possible exploitation of their health by a major corporation saying, ‘Just trust us,’ is sadly reflected in what we in North Carolina are facing now in opposing Alcoa’s relicensing plans for North Carolina’s Yadkin Hydroelectric Project. Alcoa’s contamination has jeopardized the livelihood of those relying on the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin for a source of drinking water and recreational activities such as fishing, but it will take no responsibility in cleaning up its pollutants, including cancer-causing PCBs. Erin no doubt will make this connection in her speech to us later this month.”

Alcoa, a multinational corporation based out of Pittsburgh, first obtained a 50-year license in 1958 to oversee what is known as the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, comprised of four hydroelectric stations, dams and reservoirs along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River in central North Carolina.  The four water reservoirs are High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls.  Currently, Alcoa is pursuing renewal of its license to control the waters of the Yadkin River, its lakes and tributaries, and the surrounding lands for another 50 years, even though Alcoa has permanently shut down its Badin Works smelting plant.  Naujoks is calling on the company to allow for proper and necessary environmental investigation of the site.  Naujoks charges that in the decades that Alcoa operated its smelter in Badin, N.C., the company discharged cancer-causing pollutants into the air, lands and waterways, and it refuses to address that problem while applying for relicensing.

“I am glad that given her heavy schedule right now, Erin has considered it important to include a visit to Winston-Salem on her itinerary this month,” Naujoks said. “She is dedicated to fighting chemical contamination caused by corporations, and she believes that our dispute with Alcoa in refusing to resolve its problems is one worthy of fighting by all North Carolinians who believe that water quality and environmental sustainability are rights, not luxuries.”