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Erin Brockovich Redux? Rising Chromium 6 Levels in Hinkley Water

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Photo by Easylanish via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Photo by Easylanish via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
Thought the legal settlement against PG&E for too-high levels of hexavalent chromium in Hinkley's water supply was sorted out? It was. Wasn't there a Julia Roberts movie made about this that should have placed these issues firmly in PG&E's containment planning for, well, ever? There was. Are we experiencing déjà vu? We might be. Erin Brockovich is back in Hinkley this week to investigate rising levels of chromium 6 in resident wells, according to The Sun.

Why is Brockovich so concerned? The notorious chemically-laced plume, which has been a bellwether for potential increases in water contamination and a key visible indicator of how well PG&E is managing the well-documented problem, has spread. Not good. Recent tests of resident supply wells indicate that chromium 6 levels have almost tripled in the past six months. Really not good.

Brockovich is raising questions about the ever-changing ways that PG&E regularly measures the plume, maps its boundaries and documents its spread. She's also questioning how often PG&E is testing resident supply wells and why certain homes are being purchased and others are left alone.

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PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said Monday that "the health and safety of the people of Hinkley remain our top priority," and maintained that any time PG&E sees an increase in plume size, they "take that extremely seriously, and we take immediate steps to remedy that."

As explored in detail through Erin Brockovich and the landmark case that inspired the film, PG&E settled the lawsuit in which Hinkley residents asserted that elevated levels of chromium 6 in their water led to an increase in illness including Hodgkin's disease and breast cancer. Residents are now fighting for a state law that would severely limit the acceptable levels of chromium 6 in groundwater supplies.

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