CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As some people were told they could turn on their taps again, about 100 people gathered at the Municipal Auditorium Monday to hear from consumer advocate and activist Erin Brockovich -- known for her work in exposing years of major water contamination in Hinkley, Calif. -- on what to do following last week's chemical leak in the Elk River.
An estimated 7,500 gallons of a coal-processing chemical called Crude MCHM leaked from tanks chemical manufacturer Freedom Industries into the intake at West Virginia American Water. The leak left 300,000 people without water until Monday when several customers' zones were approved to flush their home systems.
In the days following what Brockovich said is a level of water contamination she has never seen, people of the Kanawha Valley are searching for answers and solace.
"No answers are absolute after a situation like this, especially when the water's still not on," Brockovich told audience members.
Brockovich said situations like the chemical spill are not uncommon across the country, though they are on a smaller level.
"There are tank farms like this across the U.S. that are not properly inspected that result in disasters such as this," Brockovich said.
The Gazette has reported that Freedom Industries hadn't been inspected since 1991. Officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection said storage facilities aren't required to be inspected like chemical manufacturing or processing facilities.
People in attendance expressed concern for their health and that of their children. They expressed concern for the environment. They expressed concern for trust in government and the private sector.