Battling Contamination: Erin Brockovich Down Under

The Australian press have been in a state of drooling ecstasy.  Part of it is because Australia can be relevant, however negative it might be, to their monster cousin, defender and protector known as the United States.  This time, it’s cultural – in the legal sense.  Erin Brockovich has found herself doing the media rounds on yet another legal project, this time against the Australian Defence forces in Katherine in the Northern Territory.  “Australia’s Defence has left Katharine hanging out there like a sitting duck.” Central to this are the dangers of using per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a long time favourite of the ADF. The nagging question is not new: Do they cause various diseases, including cancer?

Brockovich and her legal outfit Shine Lawyers have smell legal briefs in the offing.  Lawsuits have been launched against the Defence Department in Katherine, and Oakey in Queensland. The firm is hungry, searching out potential sites of contamination in Western Australia and Victoria.

For Brockovich, there is a sense of environmental redux in all of this: contamination of local water supplies and the environment, the sort that made her case in Hinkley, California, famous.  (Julia Roberts did the rest in her 2000 portrayal.)  Then it was hexavalent chromium and its illegal dumping by Pacific Gas and Electric Company; now it is PFAS chemicals and Australia’s glorious defenders of the realm who have done everything to terrify and…

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