Single-mother Erin Brockovich spotlights a water crisis in a California town: Part 1

Brockovich became a household name after she publicized the water crisis in Hinkley, California. She faced Pacific Gas & Electric in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that eventually inspired a movie.
8:57 | 06/11/21

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Single-mother Erin Brockovich spotlights a water crisis in a California town: Part 1
Most people think of the term disrupt terror. Has a bad labeled. It conjures up an idea of being troublesome. Rowdy or chaotic. You don't get awards later in life and maintaining the status club. Everything for me started in. I think California a tiny Southern California community located in the Mojave Desert. I could see something was wrong I could feel something was wrong. And there was an eerie moment for me for I wondered what would be the common denominator that would be impacted counties people. It's like I want. The water. Perfect storm came together this day I stepped foot. I'm in that town. So Hinckley is a desert town where it's just a few hundred residents. About two hours northeast of Los Angeles someone once called it. Halfway between LA and nowhere. It's also where the California energy company PG a need. Pacific gas and electric operates a natural gas pumping station. From 1952. To 1966. PG&E u.'s chromium six. To inhibit rust from end to prevent algae from growing in the cooling towers. Chromium six. Can cause cancers. Anywhere in the body. He chromium six would be fleshed out with the water. That toxic cocktail seek to ride in to Hinckley is water supply. People started to fall save with a variety of illnesses. Everywhere I was going in this little community somebody had asked yeah. Actually occurring archive this unusual joint takes knows please. And it doesn't make sense. So back in the early nineties before Erin Brockovich becomes a household name before a multi million dollar lawsuit. And before the story of Hinckley gets turned in this major motion picture and Aron was a divorced single mom with three kids who dressed as she wanted and talk to she wanted and was unemployed. That was until this fateful event. This same event the director Steven Soderbergh used to open the 2000 film Erin Brockovich. This I had a car wreck in Reno Nevada and had a jury trial. That didn't go the way they told me that might go. And I needed a job. And it was dead man's 31 of the partners of the small southern California law firm of mastery and fittest of the represented Erica and her case. Who gave her a job as a file clerk. Has three was played by Albert Finney in the moved I have to what he finally. Realistically problem when. Not a direct don't you. I think he admired something I had a little bit. Stick to witness and I wanted to shop that's when Aaron discovered personal medical records mixed in with what she expected to be a simple real estate deal. So she began piecing together the stories of residents who were sick. I became. Here is by what I saw bad fairways medical records and her. And I saw I'm like this blood work looks weird. Those records belonged to Roberta walker who first approached the law firm seeking help when she suspected there were problems with her water. Ed Massey says well Monday sending you don't want my little colleagues and she's gonna you know talking about this okay. All right. Barbara walker is one of the first residents of Hinckley approached by Erin Brockovich and her search for answers to this medical mystery. And she comes in would be stilettos and his blond hair issues Biden six foot lying in all and showing everything looked. That's good in her living room she kept all these records he had had a suitcase. From it was just started to talk. I can remember. At a very early age both my daughter's used to have. Severe nose bleed. I mean it was just continuous blood and start coming out of her and her eyeballs and and it decides would freak me out and I you know it's I put the let's see explanation to lead. Karen quickly discovered he wasn't just the walker family that was experiencing health problems so where they're neighbors. Dozens of them. You remove doubts it can create. Well he's very he's like symptoms first time. I want to say. Well a media. There is suspected us of child abuse. We've taken. The kids to an emergency room blue noses sore so regular. The one thing they shared in common. They have all been exposed to well water contaminated. With chromium six. Love thing given by PG anything anyone indicating. It was probably six. Fact it was just the opposite they have given pamphlets newspaper articles dealing with chromium three. Wei Chen I'm recommending how good it is for the body so his deliver a product PG he's hard. That was discovered through Aaron driver. We saw that and some people are paying clean you can detect chromium in the year. It was not only a matter of misleading statements that soon there were claims of a cover. In an interview with a ABC news a former employee of PG and he blew the whistle. Saying she was instructed to destroys thousands of company reference. Impacted our hand can pick him Texan with ticket to the coming down when you now believe. In many of those documents would show won't elect chromium was and that water. It was clear something was wrong with the water in Hinckley. But holding PG any responsible. Was and others. We promised didn't. Duke case as shelved it. I sit so just like about it here of flight time and work as it is obvious. Green poison. And are you disappoint me. So the movie captures that tension between Aaron and head as he tried in vain to convince air into dropping its that is huge corporation. You could barely using people would for the next fifty years under indictment of small private firm. What happens no they poison people and lied about it. Very. That was just kind in the beginning. Becoming the best friend I've ever had but new. And passed away in 2005. Through. The lawsuit was filed late 1990 two's 634. Plants I believe it's settled late night. Exit. Erin Brockovich is known as the woman who helped win a multi million dollar settlement. For the people of a California community whose drinking water was contaminated by a giant power company. When the case finally settled in 1996. It was the largest lawsuit of its kind in US history though PG&E admitted no wrongdoing. Resorted to any verdict that was record setting at the time. 333. Million. For these 600 plus community rest. So ask your Aron head man three awarded her with the bonus of 2.5 million dollars. And the story might have ended right there with the big Hinckley settlement. But Erin Brockovich the passionate advocate for clean water was about to become Erin Brockovich. The Hollywood film and the road to that happening what is as unexpected as anything I have. Discrete AT and for my cheek it's about this woman who helped all of these people that were poisoned him home town in California. Big deal to have someone's life story in your hands.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"8:57","description":"Brockovich became a household name after she publicized the water crisis in Hinkley, California. She faced Pacific Gas & Electric in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that eventually inspired a movie.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/US","id":"78215342","title":"Single-mother Erin Brockovich spotlights a water crisis in a California town: Part 1","url":"/US/video/single-mother-erin-brockovich-spotlights-water-crisis-california-78215342"}