Area north of chromium 6 ‘plume’ shows elevated toxins
August 18, 2011 9:06 AM
Staff Writer

HINKLEY • Recent tests show elevated levels of chromium 6 in a dozen monitoring wells north of the contaminated Hinkley plume, with one well registering more than three times what’s considered a safe amount of the heavy metal.

The results mean Pacific Gas and Electric will begin supplying more residents with bottled water and add more monitoring wells further north of Thompson Road, company spokesman Jeff Smith said, as the power giant attempts to control the problem that’s plagued this town for more than half a century.

PG&E used chromium 6 in the 1950s to fight corrosion in a Hinkley cooling tower water. Erin Brockovich exposed the dangerous effects of the contaminant nearly two decades ago, in a landmark lawsuit made famous by the 2000 Julia Roberts movie.

Since the groundwater contamination was revealed, the company has had to supply replacement water and regulate water sources for chromium 6 levels in an affected plume that’s about three miles long and almost a mile-and-a-half wide. But that plume continues to grow, with elevated toxins found in a dozen of the 56 wells PG&E was ordered in April to install a halfmile further north.

Chromium 6 has been found to cause tumors and anything higher than 3.1 parts per billion is considered above background level. In the latest tests, PG&E found that 12 wells had more than 3.1 parts per billion, with one plume showing 11 parts per billion of chromium 6. Most of these wells had between 3.2 and 5.0 parts per billion.

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