LOS ANGELES — Erin Brockovich has long been a champion for clean water. Her efforts to sue Pacific Gas & Electric for polluting the water supply of a California town were adapted into a big-screen story, 2000’s “Erin Brockovich,” starring Julia Roberts in the Oscar-winning title role.
The real Brockovich is back on the big screen in the new documentary “Last Call at the Oasis,” which opened in New York and Los Angeles on May 4 and will spread to other cities throughout the month (the closest showing will be May 25 in Atlanta). The 51-year-old activist is among various environmental experts cited in the 100-minute film, which explores challenges related to the planet’s dwindling and increasingly polluted water supply.
Brockovich is still advocating for the little guy. The film shows her visiting a community in Midland, Texas, where water comes out of the tap bright green.
She talked with The Associated Press about the future of the world’s water supply.
Q: How did you come to be part of this documentary?
A: It seems me and films just kind of by fluke run into each other. ... I was happy to be involved because as a foot-soldier on the ground and zig-zagging across the United States, I can clearly see, from a pollution standpoint, that we have a water problem.
Q: It’s been more than a decade since your namesake film came out, and almost two decades since you brought your case against PG&E, so why don’t these water issues get more attention?
A: I think that there’s complacency and apathy throughout our country, and we think the EPA is going to come and save our butts on these types of problems, and they’re very absent for a whole host of reasons. We have been completely failed. Then a film comes out or there’s some convergence and people realize: “Oh (expletive), this is in my backyard.” The issue is more relevant and more daunting today than when I began my work in 1991.
Q: Why is that? A: We’re using water quantities that exceed the capacity for it to renew itself. ... But for me, the biggest concern is why the EPA and these other agencies that were put in place for oversight haven’t cleaned it up? All this contamination still sits in the ground, that could have been cleaned up 20 years ago, that could have prevented an aquifer from being destroyed, that could have prevented another community from coming down with disease, and we’ve done nothing.
I find it frustrating. I’m very perplexed. We’ve become comfortable with pointing the blame at somebody else, then they point it back at that person and the issue gets forgotten, and then things never get cleaned up.
Q: What can everyday folks do about this problem?
A: Don’t get so complacent that you think someone else has got your back. We need to get back to our communities and each other and begin to be our own heroes and rescue ourselves. Get involved. Be aware. Respect the Earth that has made us and sustained us all along, which is your greatest investment, as it is Exxon’s. Speak up, speak out and take back what is rightfully all of ours and your right and your child’s right: Clean water, a good environment and good health.