Famed environmental campaigner Erin Brockovich speaks exclusively to the Katherine Times on the outback town’s PFAS contamination crisis.
“Australia’s Defence has left Katherine hanging out there like a sitting duck,” Ms Brockovich said.
Ms Brockovich has been doing the media rounds during a visit to Australia to support a class action class launched against the Department of Defence over widespread PFAS contamination.
Shine Lawyers has launched lawsuits against the Defence Department in Katherine in the Northern Territory and Oakey in Queensland, and Ms Brockovich said they were investigating sites in Victoria and Western Australia.
PFAS chemicals used in firefighting foams once used at the Tindal RAAF Base have contaminated a groundwater aquifer, tracked under Katherine and into the local river.
Ms Brockovich today described herself as an ambassador for Shine Lawyers and said the contamination case in Katherine was eerily similar to the case which made her famous in Hinkley, California in the 1990s.
In that case the local water had been contaminated with chromium and a well known movie was released in 2000, Erin Brockovich, with Julia Roberts in the lead role.
Ms Brockovich said she hoped to visit Katherine soon, it may not be during this visit, but she is well briefed on the local situation.
“Yes I am disappointed to see that has to involve legal action but we have seen this is most often the way it goes,” she said.
She said the mountain of scientific evidence of PFAS chemicals conclusively shows PFAS is linked to cancer.
“I find it odd that Australia is dragging behind on that.
“People in Katherine are receiving bottled water from their government, they are receiving advisories not to eat fish and some food yet they say it doesn’t harm your health.
“Just think about it, it doesn’t make sense does it.”
Ms Brockovich said she did not want to frighten Katherine residents but they were not being given the best advice.
“It is always about the money, not about the people.”
She said the first step from authorities was to deliver safe water to everyone.
“Why are they dragging behind on water treatment plants, it’s just about the money, when people should be of the utmost importance.”
Ms Brockovich advised Katherine residents to make sure they were informed.
“Don’t be afraid to do your own research and act on it.
“I encourage people to go to their community leaders, go to the council meetings and let them know you are mad.”
Ms Brockovich said it could take some time yet before the courts would force Defence to act properly.
“You need to show up.
“It is your kid, your health, your property.”