Updated below. Consumer advocate Erin Brockovich is lending her star power to Fridley with an investigation into the . Brockovich is known for her case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which led to a $300 million settlement and to her portrayal by Julia Roberts in a 2000 movie dramatization.
The Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group, started by Jason McCarty about two months ago, has ballooned to more than 440 members actively sharing anecdotes about friends, family and neighbors who contracted cancer after living in the city.
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State epidemiologist John Soler found that than the state average between 2000 and 2009, with lung cancer rates significantly higher, according to data from the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System.
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McCarty received an email from Brockovich on Thursday in which she promised to look into the city’s cancer rates.
“I am always saddened by the number of emails I receive from people who have been affected by cancer,” Brockovich wrote in the email. “I am deeply sorry to hear about the situation in Fridley, Minnesota, and will be investigating this matter further.”
Bob Bowcock, Brockovich’s environmental investigator, posted a message on the Fridley Cancer Cluster’s message board asking Fridley residents to send him information (he included his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org) and cautioning that the investigation did not mean that there was necessarily any danger.
“I do not have any information that there is any immediate health related concerns, and the community water system is presently in compliance for all drinking water standards,” Bowcock wrote.
Update (1:15 p.m.): Brockovich gets more than 2,500 requests annually, Bowcock said, adding that he became aware of the Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group after reading on Wednesday. He then found McCarty’s email and notified Brockovich.
Fridley has been placed among Brockovich's 100 most urgent cases, he said—the "feet on the ground" category:
"This one went straight to the level of the 100 because they’re organized, they’re well-organized, they’re very forthcoming with their data, there are several superfund sites and cleanup sites—all the things lined up. Every time we have a community that’s as well-organized as this one, we’ll help them."