Hinkley, CA – Residents of Hinkley, California, the polluted desert town made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich, have been given a deadline by the Pacific Gas Electric Company to either sell their properties to the company or accept a water treatment system provided installed in their house free of charge.
Hinkley was horribly polluted by PG&E with a chemical called Hexavalent Chromium 6. A total of 314 homeowners in Hinkley live within a mile of the plume, which is how the affected area is determined. The homeowners have until the end of the day today to make a decision as to whether they will sell their homes or accept a treatment system.
The town and PG&E have had a rocky relationship since an investigation started by Brockovich, then a law clerk, which found the power company had been dumping toxic chemicals in the ground for decades and caused hundreds of residents to come down with cancer and other related diseases.
In 1997, PG&E agreed to pay $333 million dollars to town residents as compensation and also agreed to do all they could to clean up the town. As of now, residents are up in arms about the cleanup of the pollutants and in the way the company defines the size and scope of the plume.
PG&E spokesman, Jeff Smith, told ABC News:
“We’ve been working with the Hinkley community for a couple of years and are listening to their concerns. This is why we started this offer. In April 2012, we have expanded the eligibility to include 314 homeowners a mile wide from the plume with any presence of chromium levels.”
Residents say that the widening of the area the company has defined as polluted is proof the company is still polluting, while PG&E says that isn’t the case. They have expanded testing looking for areas affected by the plume, which has lead to finding more areas.
“The reason we are finding more contaminated areas is because we are testing in areas that haven’t been tested before and as a result the plume map keeps changing. But PG&E have stopped using the toxins since the 1960s.”
The town is also upset because, in order to clean up the Chromium, the company is using chemicals that are themselves toxic.
Hinkley Resident and Elementary School Principal Larry Notorio said:
“The clean-up of chromium is going on, but we are faced with a new problem, the by-products that result from the clean-up. Now arsenic, manganese, and other pollutants are showing up in our water and these are not being addressed by PG&E. Also, the water fountains at our school have been shut off for a year while PG&E has been supplying us with bottled water.”
PG&E has agreed to buy the homes of those wanting to sell and appraising them based on their value as if they are located in a normal town. Local residents say that they are truly happy that they are valuing the homes on that basis because, in a town as polluted as Hinkley, the homes are basically worthless.
About 60 percent of residents have agreed to sell their homes to PG&E.