Environmental activist Erin Brockovich has started her own investigation into the mysterious illness that’s caused symptoms of facial tics and verbal outbursts among teenagers in Le Roy, N.Y., in light of new evidence about a toxic chemical spill more than 40 years ago that caused water and ground contamination nearby.

Brockovich gained notoriety with a 2000 movie (Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts) about her efforts to expose a toxic chemical cover-up in California.

She told USA TODAY on Thursday that after families of affected teens and other community members asked her to look into the Le Roy case, she has spent the past week studying federal and state reports of a 1970 train derailment that spilled cyanide and an industrial solvent called trichloroethene within five kilometres of the high school attended by the 12 girls who started reporting neurological symptoms last fall. Three other teens, including one boy, are reportedly experiencing similar symptoms.