Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/12/2011 01:03:21 AM PDT

HINKLEY – The water agency overseeing the cleanup of Hinkley’s contaminated groundwater ordered Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on Tuesday to provide a new permanent water source to affected users.

PG&E has been providing bottled water to replace tap water for drinking purposes at more than 80 Hinkley locations, including residences, a school and a senior center.

But Lahontan Water Board’s order said that’s not good enough for the long term.

The agency was motivated by water users’ need to get quality drinking water out of their own taps, something many Hinkley residents couldn’t do.

“Replacement water service should have the comparable quality to the water pumped prior to the well being affected by the discharge of the waste,” the order said.

“This is a major shift, moving from intermediate replacement water to something more permanent,” said Harold J. Singer, the executive officer of the Lahontan Water Board said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

During the early 1950s and 1960s, PG&E used chromium 6 at its natural- gas-pumping station in Hinkley to control algae and protect metal against rust, a practice common in that era before cancer-causing side effects of that chemical were known.

Over the years, the plume contaminated by the chromium 6 has grown, forcing more residents to use bottled water.

But the board said whole- house replacement water was needed to meet users’ demands for water to prepare foods, shower and other uses, said Lauri Kemper, the board’s assistant executive officer.

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