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AZ Officials Concerned About PG&E Gas Plant Tainting Water

Arizona officials have now joined California environmental agencies in expressing concerns about Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s natural gas processing facility at the California-Arizona border that has released toxic chromium 6 into underground water that is migrating toward the Colorado River, a major source of drinking water in both states. Arizona environmental officials wrote to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control last week.

Arizona officials raised the possibility that the plume of contaminated ground water may have migrated under the Colorado River into their state. However, California officials said there was no indication of that happening, and it would be physically impossible because the water would have to move uphill to get onto the Arizona side of the border.

A utility spokesperson said the contaminated water plume is "largely static," and the ongoing hydro-geologic efforts are working. A team of federal, state and water district experts is monitoring the situation regularly, and PG&E has now agreed to pay up to $350,000 for Arizona to perform added tests on its side of the river, a PG&E utility spokesperson said.

"The extraction system we have put in place is to make sure that the plume doesn't move closer to the river," the spokesperson said. "All of the data over the course of the last year has shown we have maintained hydrolic control, we are pulling it away from the river."

At the behest of California officials, the PG&E utility has been at work on new steps to prevent the tainted water from reaching the river supplies. As reported last year, the PG&E utility gas plant processing supplies coming across the border from west Texas is located above a pocket of 108 million gallons of water contaminated with hexavalent chromium, or "chromium 6." It is a chemical that can cause cancer if inhaled as a dust or steam.

As the contaminated water allegedly spread to within 60 feet of the river, PG&E last month began to step up the number of wells from which it is pumping the tainted water to keep it out of the river. The utility has maintained that it has no indication that the toxic-laced water has reached the river.

Arizona officials on Friday, however, urged the utility to take water samples at various depths in the river, along with samples of the sediment along the river bottom. Arizona officials said they were not convinced that PG&E's utility was taking the situation "seriously enough," according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. "This isn't some fantasy that our technical people have conjured up," said Steve Owens, Arizona's environmental quality director.

A further complication in PG&E's ongoing mitigation work arose last week when the local Native Americans, the Fort Mojave tribe, raised concerns about an additional treatment site that the utility is building in an area that is culturally and spiritually significant to the tribe. A utility spokesperson said senior PG&E officials met with five different tribes in the area last week to work out an agreement on the temporary structure.

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