Monday, 21 March 2011

Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich, which is based on a true story, was my Geography film this week as I thought I would watch a film that presents the environmental and social impacts of the natural gas industry as, when learning about the energy module, we didn't really concentrate that much on the negative impacts on both the environment and people that this industry can create.

The film re-enacts the life of Erin Brockovich, a single mother with no money, no job and no prospects. After her lawyer fails to win her personal injury lawsuit she manages to persuade him to give her a job as compensation for the loss. At first her colleagues fail to take her seriously but this soon changes as she discovers a suspicious cover-up involving contaminated water in a local community which is causing devastating illness amongst its residents.

The groundwater contamination was created when water polluted with hexavalent chromium was stored in ponds that lacked sufficient lining to prevent it from percolating into the groundwater. The Pacific Gas and Electric company was resonsibly for this. The company were transporting natural gas via pipelines that ran throughout the surrounding area. Natural gas has to be re-compressed several times during its transportation and, like many other forms of power plants, large cooling towers were used to cool the compressors. However, the components of the cooling towers are susceptible to corrosion and so hexavalent chromium was added to prevent this from occuring. The water used dissolved the hexavalent chromium and, during storage, it percolated into the groundwater and this not only affected the water supplies in the immediate area as the contamination plume, as it is known, spread.

By studying the medical records of the local people, Erin soon discovered a disturbing link between increased rates of chronic illnesses and the water contamination and after further investigation, including the discovery that the corporate headquarters of PG&E knew that the groundwater was being contaminated and advised Hinkley station to withhold this information for the local people, a judge declared that PG&E had pay large amounts of compensation to all those affected.

So, was this a good Geography film...? The film presents both the negative impacts, which mainly revolve around health, that this industry has had on the local people and the extent to which the large natural gas company are prepared to go to, to cut costs and to cover up the negative impacts of their industry in a very watchable format. Overall, I enjoyed this film and it did enable me to learn a bit more about the negative impacts specific to the natural gas industry. Although I felt that it lacked a bit of depth into the specifics, in terms of the geography related aspects of the films, I would still recommend it as a good film to watch.

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