This short film was produced by the Glassbreaker Films team at The Center for Investigative Reporting. Glassbreaker Films is an all-female group of filmmakers working to promote gender parity in investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking. The initiative is funded by The Helen Gurley Brown Foundation.
The 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” seemed like a successful David versus Goliath story. A single mom of three took on PG&E for contaminating drinking water in Hinkley, California, and came out victorious, suing and winning $333 million from the giant utility company. But whatever became of the tiny town?
For the roughly 600 residents who received part of that payout, the ending wasn’t all happy. Residents who lived there in the ‘90s, such as Roberta Walker, say they suffer from residual health problems. And while they can’t disclose how much money they received from the lawsuit, they say it wasn’t enough to keep them afloat for long. Now, 21 years after the lawsuit, it seems the same public health hazard continues to affect the welfare of Hinkley residents.
From natural disasters to national tragedies, the media swarms around major stories, hurling those affected into the spotlight. But what happens after the cameras are gone and the country moves on to the next headline? The Aftermath revisits stories that once dominated the news, investigating where people are now and what has happened since, to tell the story after the story.
For more on The Aftermath series: revealnews.org/theaftermath
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
They were very gracious Nike had before.
The only bear this left in the whole town. They are gone
the bar that made bright red famous.
What is the important you if I told you that when I worked at the Hinckley Planet destroyed, destroy documents
without that every measure would have had nothing. What did you see him
where she got. The information was actually at the corner of the far right there.
Roger from over the moon, not favour everybody would far rather far. California is a speck of a town in them a hobby desert halfway between allay and nowhere. Pga admitted dump twenty six tonnes of a cool and made of chromium six into unlined. Retaining ponzi chromium fixes a heavy metal and a carcinogen. It leads into the soil.
Terminated the arc of the drinking water in Hinkley. My whole family has been affected by it. We all have the
Six in our DNA Pga settle with the heap we residence for three hundred and thirty three million dollars the largest such direct action law suit. In history, the judge came back with a number for the whole group for us both he's going to make them pay through.
Thirty three million and and he's gonna make them give five million of that year
dollars if done
got five million dollars. Are me. In that case, I wouldn't be seen here. I'd be in the Bahamas. In an island
I join my life with my family and I
be having three jobs. The sad thing is is because I can't give out the amount of what we got. Everybody assumes that word
rich family. The award was three hundred and three,
these three million, and there are six hundred and thirty three players. The judges do
every day, the money not equally, but by these severity.
Of the elements or the medical reasons at that
hi, my daughters were only eight nine, so they have medical issues.
No, not really do they
have them now at age. Thirty, eight absolutely.
This is my home here in Hinkley Peach any when they bought us out. We had this home built and arm
It was before the loss, it was settled. We moved here
Nineteen. Ninety three, so we ve been here fern for some time now,
I'm gonna go ahead and take you to my prize possession, which is my horse. We loved Hinkley.
My husband was born and raised here went to school here. My daughter's went to school here from kindred eighth grade, so we bought land and we built here at that point I was
content. I was happy leave me alone. I don't wanna Jill Pga anymore, I'm just fine.
Is my good water in my horses. What are we doing back here? And I know it was me we were shocked to discover all these years later. It never got fixed. In fact, the area
The contamination has brought them according to the local water bored, I mean it. Sky EAST is gone north, it's gone south. I thought hollowly crap. This is happening again,
couldn't believe it. It just blew me away.
but that's not what I am about his son in law I married to Vienna, was referred as holders daughter.
I moved to Hinkley seven. Five years ago I was kind of honour.
Since, when I was going to buy this property, I called Mojave Water Agency, a cup of Water Board. I called Pge and I spoke to people and they reassured me the Plymouth contained you're, fine, you can buy the property,
ass, the water at that time and it was not detect chromium six less than.
two years later, as when the second round came up during that time, my property values values over seven hundred thousand dollars,
so currently were at the lowest tax bracket. Due to contamination. I can never get what it should be valued out, because I live in Hinkley in its contaminated water.
So everything you can see now up all owned and you can look out and to hear these
all hell, the fields
and what this technology does is that water supply to crops like alfalfa
chromium. Six is converted in the rude sounds from chrome and sixty chromium three, which is the save programme,
if you have any other questions? So here's a map,
showing the domestic well
as shown in these yellow dots here
Our job is to be able to understand how this information and expand.
one of the largest chromium six impact, the groundwater product sectors. The world sometimes takes decades to claim that they can see the red area here are calmly six concentration above three point one and this blue area. Here our currencies, concentrations above tat, nothing less yet lived there and that's the thing your page in either the purchase the majority of property.
Where did the state of California is supposed to establish a drinking water standard? It's supposed to be as close as feasibly possible to the public health goal, but compared two point: two park pavilion. Ten parts per billion is actually a large them. It's a poison! I'm not going to take a chance for my son to have any of the issues that my wife has.
Every became a ghost town because page any has Barton over eighty percent of the land. The city slowly disappeared its depressing,
The school is actually the best school in this entire area arson.
Went there and it was a blue
in school. You can't I held the community together,
Now we don't have a store, we don't have a gas station, we don't have a church. Our legacy here is nothing
I wish it was high. Would I wish my wife was rich.
as soon as pigeon offers me a fair amount of my home, I'm gone
this whole ordeal broad brought awareness out into the world, but no we did not bring them down. All we did was wake the dragon, Pga poisoned p,.
they poisoned me? They poisoned my children, a poison, my husband, they poisoned the community and I want them to be accountable for it.
Transcript generated on 2020-10-28.