Activist Erin Brockovich sounds alarm in La Crosse: ‘We are in trouble’ with PFAS

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Erin Brockovich gained notoriety for building a case against Pacific Gas and Electric in the 1990s involving groundwater contamination in California.
Her story was then made into an Oscar-winning film. Brockovich gave a presentation at Viterbo University Thursday night, where she told people how they can make a difference, starting at the local level, especially for residents of Wisconsin who have PFAS contaminated water.

An estimated 200 million Americans have PFAS chemicals in their drinking water.

“We are in trouble,” Brockovich said.

PFAS are forever chemicals found in products all over the United States. The chemicals have made their way to water systems in the state of Wisconsin, including the Town of Campbell on French Island. Jeffery Lamont is a resident in the Town of Peshtigo. He has been using bottled water since January of 2018.

“We’re already year 5 into this at the state level and we still do not have a permanent supply of safe drinking water,” Lamont said.

The chemicals found in PFAS can lead to health problems such as infertility, thyroid disease, and cancer.

“You know you’re always kind of wondering if the shoe’s going to drop with one of us,” Lamont said.

But the contaminated water has become a political issue.

“The state of Wisconsin has failed us miserably in this,” Lamont said.

Brockovich says states need to take action and install filtration systems on well heads. The state of Wisconsin is also yet to pass legislation setting a standard for acceptable levels of PFAS.

David Andrews, a senior scientist at Environmental Working Group, says a federal standard needs to be set for acceptable levels of PFAS, rather than states setting their own.

“What that leads to is disparities even just across state lines and across the country in term of what levels of these PFAS chemicals is acceptable in drinking levels,” Andrews said.

Brockovich says water can’t continue to be a left or right issue.

“Sure, you want to vote for people who care about water, but I don’t even know why I would have to say vote for the right person who cares about water. Everybody, who are our leaders and in policy, on either side of the aisle, should all care about water,” she said.

She says people can demand change.

“You can get the information, you can find the passion, you can get involved, you can speak up,” Brockovich said.

And it doesn’t have to start on the steps of the White House.

“You need to show up at your own local level,” she said.

Brockovich says people can should show up to their local city and town hall meetings and write to their state representatives. Those actions have a larger impact than most people think.

Brockovich’s speech at 7 p.m. Thursday was livestreamed on Viterbo’s website.

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now  
La Crosse Police and Fire Commission appoints Jeff Murphy interim fire chief
La Crosse harbor project wins $2M state grant
Onalaska’s St. Paul’s Lutheran School robotics team Qualifies for world championship

UW Research finds many CBD products don’t contain what they claim