In yet another side story to a toxic contamination and natural gas transmission pipeline saga that spans decades and inspired an Academy Award-winning motion picture, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) made local news just before the Thanksgiving holiday by offering to buy up to 100 properties in the town of Hinkley, CA, about 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles. That move comes in the wake of residents and the local board for state water regulators expressing new concerns about PG&E's handling of ongoing toxic mitigation work corralling a 2.5-by-1-mile plume of groundwater tainted with hexavalent chromium, which was previously used by PG&E in its gas transmission pipeline operations in the Hinkley area (see Daily GPI, Nov. 16). A report in the Los Angeles Times quoted a utility spokesperson confirming that if residents in the plume zone want to sell, PG&E will be willing to buy the properties. Meanwhile, the regional water board is still investigating PG&E's work in containing the plume and is considering options proposed by the utility. Tests have shown elevated -- albeit not necessarily dangerous -- levels of hexavalent chromium in domestic and agricultural water supplies. The utility and more than 600 residents reached a $333 million settlement in 1997.

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