SAVANNAH, Ga. -- The beleaguered Ogeechee River has a newfound friend in Erin Brockovich.
The environmental advocate made famous by her fight against tainted groundwater in California will appear at Love’s Seafood in Savannah this week to kick off an investigation and to support the Ogeechee Riverkeeper.
“We’re not just coming to stir the pot,” said Bob Bowcock, an environmental investigator who works with Brockovich. “We’re coming to open an investigation. Erin likes to use her celebrity to call attention to things and get people to step up and do the right thing.”
The Ogeechee was the site of the state’s largest fish kill in 2011, with 38,000 fish estimated dead, all downstream from the King America Finishing textile factory in Screven County. In the subsequent investigation, state regulators determined the factory had been operating a flame retardant line without a water discharge permit for five years.
Brockovich made a name for herself as a tough talking, provocatively dressing young mother of three who as a legal assistant in the early 90s helped win a $333 million settlement with a California utility. Now she consults with communities around the country facing environmental and other consumer issues. She’s been involved in another 100 cases with settlements totalling more than $1 billion, Bowcock said.
It was Brockovich’s fondness for the more than 200-strong network of nonprofit Riverkeeper organizations around the world that sparked the invitation to bring her to Savannah, said Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp. That and the fact that several local citizens advocated to bring her here.
Brockovich is not accepting a fee or travel expenses for the appearance.
She’ll have a press conference and visit with the public from 5-7 p.m. Friday at Love’s Seafood.
Love’s is a fitting venue, said Sheila Galbreth, whose sister and brother-in-law, Donna and Fulton Love, own the riverfront restaurant at U.S. 17 and the Ogeechee.
“All of us have spent many a day in the Ogeechee River,” she said. “Under the circumstances, I’m not sure I’d want to put my big toe in it.”
Brockovich is also fundraising Thursday in Atlanta at a $100-a-ticket gathering at the home of Krista Brewer and Gary Flack, with the proceeds going to GreenLaw’s case on behalf of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper.
Bowcock said he and Brockovich will kick off their investigation with a presentation of how they work and what other investigations they’ve carried out around the country.
“As we understand what’s going on with discharge, we want to either help the regulatory community step up and do more or if there are people experiencing chemical pollution on their property, talk about what’s their role and responsibility.”