Erin Brockovich on the Flint water crisis

By Alex Bregman

Consumer advocate and environmental activist Erin Brockovich joined Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga on “Yahoo News Live” to discuss the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich. She discussed the causes of the crisis, the accountability of state officials and how this is a national problem.

Brockovich explained the cause of Flint’s crisis and why the city switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River. She told Golodryga, “Because the city was in bankruptcy, there was an appointed emergency city water manager who decided to save a buck and the governor agreed. They made the switch, added the chloramines that caused all this lead to leach out, and nobody disclosed anything to the residents.”

She said that state officials did not know how to properly get water to Flint. “I don’t think they necessarily knew what they were doing, which can be very scary. You know water quality is chemistry. You need to know what you’re doing and you need be able to say, you know, this is not in my sphere or scope of understanding and rely on somebody to do that. That’s why I really have to look at this emergency water manager that was in place, because we actually provided them a report and a protocol on what to do to avoid this and how to treat the water.” She continued, “It’s frightening to think that we step in as an agency and we don’t know what we’re doing with water quality, and the outcome would be the risk and to jeopardize so many people.”

Brockovich had already called on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to resign. On “Yahoo News Live” she went further to suggest criminal charges should be considered: “They created this mess and they can’t continue to hide behind it. This is where the residents have every right, and I stand with the residents, to be absolutely furious. This lack of transparency, this deception that cost them their health, their children’s health, potentially for life, is inexcusable. We should be looking at criminal charges. This is why they want [Snyder] to step down. As long as he’s going to continue to be in office, you’ve got to stop hiding behind the story.” She continued, “You can’t change what he’s done, but begin to correct it moving forward so they have a safer, broader solution. This isn’t going to go away overnight.”

On her reasoning behind removing the governor now, Brockovich told Golodryga, “It has some form of justice for them. It’s very hard. There’s such a breach of trust now with their leader to leave him in place to make any further decisions for them would be very difficult. It feels very difficult for them to accept. I think at some level it’s just the honorable thing to do.”

On the health risks of the lead levels in Flint water, “It’s very hard to rid it from the body, so this is something that could affect these children for the rest of their lives.”

Brockovich said that this problem goes well beyond Flint. “It’s a national problem, and Flint is a model city for us to look at. I couldn’t be more proud of this community for how they’ve come forward and used their voice, but it’s the tip of the iceberg to something that is going to be a national problem.”  

Brockovich also discussed 2016 presidential politics. She has endorsed Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ position on calling for Governor Snyder’s resignation, but she said that this issue should not be political: “Bernie is certainly willing to have the conversation and that I appreciate. It’s hard for me to make a position on any of the candidates on the environment because I don’t know if I’m overly thrilled with any of them. I need to work with everyone. We can’t politicize water.” She continued, “It shouldn’t be independent, Republican or Democrat. This is everybody’s issue. This is what sustains our life.”

Finally, Brockovich told Golodryga three things people need to know about the water crisis in Flint and beyond.