Famed environmental crusader Erin Brockovich, speaking to address Fridley citizens’ cancer concerns, talked for the first time about possible plans to pressure the federal government and Fridley’s corporate polluters into paying for further studies and cleanup.
“How many of you knew you had six Superfund sites?” Brockovich asked the audience of about 500, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of hazardous waste sites.
The assembled crowd—comprising mostly current and former Fridley residents plus a contingent of politicians and officials from the Department of Health and the Pollution Control Agency—answered her (probably rhetorical) question with silence.
“Wow, nobody knew,” Brockovich continued. “That’s pathetic.”
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The two-hour meeting consisted of speeches by Brockovich and her environmental investigator Bob Bowcock—who has taken the lead role in assimilating anecdotes from residents and data provided by state and local agencies—followed by a question and answer period. Jason McCarty, founder of the Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group, passed a microphone to dozens of audience members, many of whom spoke about personal battles with cancer.
Both Brockovich and Bowcock said that their role is to help Fridley residents seek answers about the dimensions of contamination plumes known to be flowing underneath the city and the extent to which those plumes have contributed to cancer incidences.
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In March 2012, the Minnesota Department of Health.
Upon further study, the department later and said the still higher-than-average number of cancer cases in Fridley was nothing more than a statistical anomaly, largely attributable to the .
But state and local officials do not dispute the fact that the number of Superfund sites in and around Fridley is unusually high or that pollutants were released into the air, soil and water in large quantities until the 1980s.
The FMC Corp. site was once ranked as the most hazardous site in the country by the EPA, Bowcock said, and there is debate about whether cleanup efforts for Fridley’s Superfund sites were fully effective and whether the contamination still poses dangers.
Bowcock said companies responsible for the pollution should be forced to pay for remedial actions such as the cost of adding carbon filters to Fridley’s water system.
"If those polluters don't choose to pay us for what we've done, sue 'em into the next century," Bowcock said. "Do you have a city attorney in this town? Tell him to grow a pair."
Brockovich also addressed the possibility of pursuing legal options.
“Things could get into litigation: It could take 10 years,” she said. “We will definitely—unfortunately—be talking to law firms.”