Factual · Powerful · Original · Iconoclastic
This hasn't been a good year for "America's Sweetheart." In one recent setback, in which she acted as plaintiff, she sued 31 hospitals she claimed were making unfair claims against Medicare. Her payoff would have been tremendous. But two separate judges tossed out all 31 cases, asserting that among other things Brockovich has no standing since she has no involvement in any way with Medicare nor was ever even treated by the hospitals in question. Any first-year law student could have told her that.
Far worse for Brockovich was the November 22 Los Angeles County Superior Court decision to reject the first 12 cases in litigation her firm of Masry & Vititoe began in 2003 against the city of Beverly Hills, the school district, and a slew of oil companies. The suit claims an oil rig on the campus of Beverly Hills High School caused extraordinary high rates of several types of cancer among the approximately 11,000 alumni who attended between 1975 and 1997. Yet the firm never proffered the least evidence that, while some alumni certainly have suffered from cancer, the rig had or even was capable of causing the diseases in question.
Now Brockovich is on the warpath against a proposed composting facility near the town that made her rich, Hinkley. She sides with those who insist that the material collected from municipal sewage systems would send harmful bacteria, viruses, or at the least nasty smells and flies towards the tiny California town. She's done radio shows on the subject, as always has gotten tons of media attention, and she even paid to bring in a bus load of activists.
But again, Brockovich is on the wrong side of reality.
The compost company, Nursery Products of Apple Valley, California, only takes in biomass from area sewage systems that has already gone through a four-step clean-up process. After it arrives at the composting facility, the biomass is mixed with wood fiber and heated to 131 degrees as mandated by the EPA to kill bacteria.
"The site without a doubt carries zero risk to public health and the environment," Alan Rubin, chief author of the EPA's regulation-setting standards on using and composting biosolids, told me. He's now a consultant to Nursery Products but worked at the EPA for 28 years. "There will be no impact to groundwater, no impact on surface water, and windblown pathogens wouldn't survive more than a few seconds" he said.
As to smells and flies, the closest edge of Hinkley to the facility would be eight miles away - plenty of space for odors and insects to dissipate. On the other hand, the town has a dairy farm right next to its school. Thus on a daily basis the dairy exposes kids to raw manure with accompanying bacteria, smells, and flies. Ah! But that's homegrown manure, bacteria, smells, and flies. Still, anything that embarrasses Brockovich and further reveals her as all breasts and no brains can't be all bad.