Hinkley residents choose PG&E buyout over water-purification system

Hinkley residents choose PG&E buyout over water-purification system by Jim Steinberg, October 17, 2012, Redlands Daily Facts
When given a choice between an in-home water-purification system and leaving a town made famous because of its toxic water, homeowners chose leaving by better than a two-to-one majority. On Wednesday – two days after the deadline for residents’ responses, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced the results of several options offered in April to 300 families who reside within a mile of Hinkley’s growing toxic water plume.

The results were:
200 opted for accepting PG&E’s offer to buyout their properties.
70 opted for a whole household replacement system or a deeper well – both paid for by PG&E.
30 opted to stay on bottled water, provided by PG&E.

“A lot of people are really scared,” said Jon Quass, a schoolteacher in Barstow and longtime Hinkley resident. “For some people this property is all they have and it has been in the family for generations…a lot of them think if they stay they will end up with absolutely nothing,” said Quass, who is among those taking the whole-household water replacement system offered by PG&E. Those entering the buyout program must sign a legal document, which prohibits them from speaking about the transaction.

“I like it here…I’m not going anywhere,” Quass said. “I have good neighbors and it is quiet. It is good country living.” In the 1950s and 1960s, before the cancer-causing properties of chromium 6 were known, PG&E workers in the company’s Hinkley natural gas compressor station periodically dumped water laced with the chemical into an unlined pit, where it seeped into the groundwater. The problem – and its effects – became internationally famous after Erin Brochovich, a legal clerk, focused attention on health issues brought about by the town’s toxic water. Her efforts were depicted in the 2000 movie “Erin Brochovich.” The plume is now thought to be at least 6 miles long and 2 miles wide.

Hinkley has about 500 households, said Robert Potter, who works on Hinkley issues for Project Navigator, a Brea-based environmental consulting firm. … That such a large number of people have opted for the buyout has raised issues on the longterm survivability of Hinkley. Ian Webster, Project Navigator’s president, said that “an unfortunate ramification of the overall Hinkley chromium 6 groundwater situation” is that even though a viable water treatment system is available to them, “many folks have just had enough and want out.” “Hinkley’s survivability as a community is at a tipping point,” Webster said. Larry Notario, principal of Hinkley Elementary Middle School, said that how the buyouts translate into student losses at the school is something that will be looked at very closely.

Lester White, who heads the Community Advisory Committee, said Hinkley residents have been “held hostage” by the chromium 6 plume, which has made houses impossible to sell. PG&E ended its buyout program on Oct. 15, said Jeff Smith, spokesman. White said that the recent rapid expansion of the plume’s known boundaries has “brought the community together.” … PG&E’s Smith said that the buyout program is over because the company ultimately wants to restore the quality of life Hinkley had before the chromium 6 plume – not buy out everyone who lives there. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to: Fracturing: Salts of trivalent chromium (Cr3 +) oxidized to hexavalent (Cr6 +) known as chromate And salts of trivalent chromium (Cr3 +) low toxicity (allergenic only) are oxidized to hexavalent (Cr6 +) known as chromate, which are potent mutagens and carcinogens in humans. … Recent publications show an abnormal rate of cancer…around extraction sites….

Fracturing: Salts of trivalent chromium (Cr3 +) oxidized to hexavalent (Cr6 +) known as chromate

Fracking – Natural Gas Affects Water Quality Through expensive Freedom of Information requests, Ernst obtained post-fracking water well monitoring data that showed the Alberta Environment people had found hexavalent chromium in Rosebud’s well water. “The government hasn’t told this to people” in the hamlet, says Ernst. Hexavalent chromium, otherwise known as chromium-6, is the extremely toxic substance Brockovich found in the drinking water in Hinkley, California, which led to a major class action lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, which finally paid the plaintiffs more than $200 million in 2006.

Fracking Canada In 2006, testing by the government also found a chromium level that had increased by a factor of 45

Toxicological & Chemical Review, Exploration and Exploitation of Shale gas and Shale Oil (Parent Rock Hydrocarbon) by Fracking (New Edition, September 2012) While in the initial liquid the EPA has only identified one trivalent chromium salt, chromic acetate (No. 29). In an oxidizing medium, it is easily transformed into compound hexavalent….

Testing by USGS Demonstrates Contaminants Are Still Present in EPA Deep Monitoring Well Water Near Pavillion, Wyoming The chemical contaminants detected by USGS in the water from MW-01 that corresponded to gas drilling activities and hydraulic fracturing include Diesel Range Organics, Gasoline Range Organics, Methane, Ethane, Propane, Uranium, Radium 226, Radium 228, Cadmium, Chromium, Lead, Phenol and the PAHs including Naphthalene and Pyrene compounds.

Toxic accident dealt with quickly A bad week for industrial accidents near Slave Lake [Alberta]…. Produced water contains elevated concentrations of heavy metals including barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, nickel, silver and zinc. There are also small amounts of radium226 and radium228 and up to several hundred parts per million of volatile dissolved organic material.

Calls for CSG moratorium after ‘toxic spill’ The samples showed lead at five times the acceptable drinking water standard, arsenic at twice and chromium at 3.74 times the acceptable standards – a toxic cocktail the Wilderness Society says could still be leaking from the gas project. “Our tests of the Pilliga spill have revealed for the first time just how toxic this coal seam gas water is – it is a cocktail of heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, plus salts and petrochemicals,”

Discovering Shale Gas: An Investor Guide to Hydraulic Fracturing produced water…can contain arsenic, lead, hexavalent chromium, barium, chloride, sodium, sulfates and other minerals, and may be radioactive.

Toxic chromium found in Chicago drinking water- Detected levels are more than 11 times higher than California’s new standard the nation’s first “public health goal” to limit hexavalent chromium ]

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