Bottled water provided by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) to the town whose groundwater it famously poisoned in real life—and in the movie “Erin Brockovich”—has been found to contain high levels of the same toxin, chromium-6.
The utility was cited by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board for failing to meet established standards of safety for the cancer-causing heavy-metal. PG&E has been providing bottled water to around 300 homes in the high desert town of Hinckley and its schools since agreeing to pay $330 million for damage started in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
The utility used chromium-6 at its Hinkley natural gas pumping station, where it percolated into the groundwater creating an expanding plume now known to be 2 miles wide and 6 miles long.
The water board said PG&E documented the excessive bottled chromium 6 in documents it was required to submit, but buried the info in other data. The maximum level required by the board is .06 parts per billion, and samples in two different months were .011 and .014.
State and federal standards are currently much higher, a point emphasized by PG&E when spokesman Jeff Smith told the San Bernardino Sun, “It is important to realize anybody could go into a grocery store anywhere and buy bottled water off the shelf that could conceivably have chromium six at these levels.” The state is considering using a much lower standard, perhaps as low as .002.