"I'm going to stay right in the middle of the fight," Erin Brockovich tells PEOPLE

By Johnny Dodd and Nicole Weisensee Egan
Updated June 23, 2016 04:10 PM
Joe Schmelzer

Nearly two decades ago, Erin Brockovich rose to fame by nearly singlehandedly exposing how a multi-billion dollar power company had been contaminating the groundwater in Hinkley, California.

Since then, she’s built a career as an environmental and consumer advocate (she now consults with the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg) but in the last 18 months has become a staunch advocate for communities across the country concerned about their tainted water – starting with the moms in Flint, Michigan who first reached out to her in late 2014.

“She’s been fantastic,” Melissa Mays, 37, one of the Flint moms who helped discover lead was tainting their drinking water, tells PEOPLE. “She shares our story and got what happened to us on a greater platform. She’s given us the best advice and encouragement.”

For more on Erin Brockovich’s latest efforts, tune into People’s List on June 25 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

In fact, Brockovich says nine times out of ten, it’s moms who reach out to her with concern for their children, she tells PEOPLE.

“They all touch me because they are fearful,” she says. “And they are not like overly alarmed or alarmist. Something is really happening. I’m taken aback by their strength and courage and determination. Many of them are like when I began.”

Brockovich was a single mom herself back in the mid-1990s when she built a case against Pacific Gas & Electric for polluting the groundwater in Hinkley with hexavalent chromium. The case resulted in the utility s being ordered to pay $333 million to affected families and led to her portrayal by Julia Roberts in the 2000 movie, Erin Brockovich.

For more on Erin Brockovich, pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

So when a mom reaches out to her, she listens.

“These mothers are like, ‘Wait. We know something is wrong’ and they will email me or they’ll send me a picture of their water and say, ‘Okay, I know this is not safe to drink. What is going on?’ ” she says.

In the past year, she’s traveled to nearly a dozen states, including Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, New York, and Vermont. She has trips to Pennsylvania and Alabama planned as well.

“I’m going to stay right in the middle of the fight,” she says. “No rest, right?”