New site set for Brockovich public meeting Friday

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a change of venue for the press conference and public meeting.
News Sentinel staff

A public meeting Friday with Erin Brockovich and a New York law firm will be held at 6 p.m. at the gym of Roane State Community College in Harriman.

It had been scheduled at a church but Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland, who is helping to coordinate the visit, said at least 500 people are expected and a larger site was needed.

Brockovich will make her first public appearance related to the Dec. 22 TVA fly-ash spill on at a 2 p.m. Thursday press conference with an environmental specialist and an attorney with the Weitz & Luxenberg law firm, at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 1112 Highway 321 North, in Lenoir City.

"My main objective in these cases is to work with the community to build trust and help protect their health and safety," Brockovich said in a press release today.

While she said last week she's not coming to Roane County to recruit plaintiffs, today's release states, "I know lawsuits can scare people, but the attorneys from Weitz & Luxenberg seek justice, and in doing so, they uncover the truth."

Brockovich, a 48-year-old mother of three, has worked as a television host and describes herself as a self-taught authority on environmental issues. She worked as a law clerk in the 1990s when she began looking into reports of health problems caused by contaminated groundwater in Hinkley, Calif.

The class-action lawsuit that followed led to a $333 million settlement by the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and inspired the Academy Award-winning 2000 movie "Erin Brockovich," starring Julia Roberts.

Robin Greenwald, the attorney coming to Roane County, said in the statement, "People have a right to fight back if their property has been affected by this spill - if their well water has been contaminated." Greenwald heads the Environmental Toxic Torts Unit at the law firm.

A coalition of environmental groups including the Sierra Club sent TVA a formal notice Tuesday of their intent to sue; four Roane County landowners filed the first lawsuit in the county's Circuit Court on Dec. 30 against TVA; and the nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy also filed letters last week notifying TVA that federal suits would be filed.

For more information on the public meeting, call Nellie Barnard at 800-438-9786 or e-mail