In the small high desert community of Hinkley, CA, about 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles, which inspired multi-million dollar utility settlements and a major motion picture, residents and the local board for state water regulators are expressing concerns about Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s (PG&E) handling of ongoing toxic mitigation work.
The issue, which inspired the Academy Award-winning 2000 film, “Erin Brockovich,” resurfaced in a recent front page Los Angeles Times report that focused on the combination utility’s ongoing work to contain an underground plume of contaminated water tied to PG&E’s natural gas transmission pipeline operations more than half a century ago.
Nervous residents that once were part of a $333 million settlement with PG&E and the state’s Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board are raising concerns about the plume getting beyond perimeters established by the utility’s clean-up group.
While not calling the news report inaccurate, a PG&E spokesperson said variations in plumes, particularly in areas such as the high desert in Southern California, where there are seasonal variations in water levels and flows, “are not uncommon.”
Two years ago, PG&E made its final settlement payment of $20 million to conclude the last of a series of lawsuits stemming from water poisoning from hexavalent chromium (“chromium 6”) linked to its natural gas transmission pipeline operations in the Mojave Desert. The final settlement involved claims that 104 people had been exposed to water containing chromium 6, a possible carcinogen, used in PG&E gas pipeline system compressor operations moving supplies from the California-Arizona border to Northern California.
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