PG&E Cites New State Chromium-6 Standard, Cuts off Help for “Brockovich” Town

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Now that California has finally approved standards for the amount of toxic chromium-6 allowed in water, Hinkley residents, made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich and its protagonist after Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) poisoned their water, will no longer receive unadulterated water from the utility.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) approved a chromium-6 standard of 10 parts per billion this year, around 500 times higher than that recommended by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). It is the first state standard for chromium-6 in the nation. The federal standard is 100 parts per billion.

As a result, Hinkley water was deemed sufficiently unadulterated and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board gave PG&E permission to end the bottled water and water filtration program that it was forced to provide in 2010. More than 200 residents receive the bottled water and another 30 have filtration systems in their home to protect against the chemical, which has been linked to cancer and other horrible ailments.

PG&E will also end its program of buying homes from people having trouble selling in a world-renowned toxic community, 14 miles northwest of Barstow. The utility has bought 196 homes to date. The new policies take effect on October 31.

There is some evidence that chromium-6 can damage DNA. Other studies have linked it to male reproductive harm, liver toxicity and blood disorders. The chemical is on California’s Prop. 65 list of substances known to cause cancer and reproductive harm. It has long been considered dangerous if inhaled and in 2007 the federal government determined that it’s not OK to eat it either.

PG&E used the chemical in the 1950s and ‘60s to prevent rust in water towers, then periodically dumped the water into unlined ponds where it seeped into the groundwater. Chromium-6 was found in the drinking water of at least 500 California communities in 51 of the state’s 58 counties between 2000 and 2004.

Residents and Brockovich, who think the chromium-6 state standard is not strict enough, are not happy and told the San Bernardino Sun they hope the board’s parent, the State Water Resources Control Board, reviews the decision to cut PG&E loose.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

PG&E to End Bottled Water Delivery for Hinkley Residents (by Jim Steinberg, San Bernardino Sun)

Mistrust Still Flows Through Hinkley (by Mike Lamb, Victor Valley Daily Press)

PG&E Hinkley Chromium Cleanup (State Water Resources Control Board)

State Decides on Chromium-6 Standard 500 Times Less Strict than CalEPA “Goal” (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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