Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/15/2011 07:45:27 PM PST
Environmental and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich on Tuesday shot off a letter to the federal Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment supporting its proposed public health goal for the cancer-causing hexavalent chromium in drinking water.
In December, the office, an arm of the Environmental Protection Agency, proposed a public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion of the chemical, also known as chromium 6, in drinking water.
Since leading the charge in landmark litigation against Pacific Gas & Electric in the 1990s, Brockovich has been the public voice on the dangers of chromium 6.
PG&E was accused of contaminating groundwater in the High Desert town of Hinkley, which allegedly caused hundreds of residents myriad ailments. The San Francisco-based utility doled out $333 million to more than 600 residents.
The 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” brought Brockovich’s story to the public arena, as well as that of chromium 6.
In a letter addressed to Michael Baes of the Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology branch of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Brockovich said a public health goal for chromium 6 is long past.
“It was December 1987 when PG&E first notified the state of California they had polluted the groundwater of scores of privately owned drinking water wells in Hinkley; their reckless action causing death and disease,” Brockovich said. “It has been over 11 years since the movie was released bringing this issue national attention, and 10 years this week since Sen. Debra Ortiz introduced legislation instructing the state Department of Health Services to develop a recommended standard for chromium 6 in water by July 1, 2003, and to adopt a maximum contaminant level beginning Jan. 1, 2004.”
The legacy of chromium 6 in Hinkley resurfaced late last year when residents learned that a toxic plume had expanded. A series of public meetings have occurred since.
PG&E has provided residents and the Hinkley Elementary/Middle School with bottled drinking water, offered to buy homes, has been setting up monitoring wells and has embarked on an aggressive cleanup effort to try to contain the plume.
Just last week, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is overseeing PG&E’s cleanup efforts, announced that an updated plume map distributed to the public in January was incorrect, and that the plume had actually expanded about 1,000 feet north to Thompson Road, said Lauri Kemper, assistant executive officer for the water board.
She said maps handed out to residents at a public meeting at Hinkley Elementary/Middle School in late January were not redrawn to show the extended plume boundary to the north. An updated map was posted on the water board’s website on Friday, Kemper said.
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