PG&E Toxic Settlement Deal OK’d

Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 05:03 PM gHale

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) will pay $3.6 million to settle claims the utility failed to stem toxic chromium pollution in a Mojave Desert city.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board approved the settlement last week. As part of the settlement, in which PG&E did not acknowledge wrongdoing, half of the money will go toward developing a fresh water supply for the elementary school.

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The board claimed the utility failed to contain a plume of chromium 6 that polluted the Hinkley water supply. PG&E once used chromium 6 to reduce corrosion at cooling towers.

Kevin Sullivan, a PE&E engineer charged with the cleanup, said parents have voiced concerns about the water quality at the elementary school. The utility had been providing bottled water for teachers and students and planned to extend a pipeline to inject fresh water into the plume to keep it away from the school’s wells.

In 1996, the utility agreed to pay $333 million to Hinkley residents to settle claims of illness stemming from contaminated water. The suit inspired the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

In 2008, the plume of chromium began spreading. Despite efforts by PG&E to stem the problem, tests last year showed it was growing again. The reported chromium levels are low enough not to violate drinking water standards but residents remain concerned.

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