Published: 15 March 2012 08:18 PM

Pacific Gas & Electric Company must pay $3.6 million for failing to contain groundwater pollution beneath the rural community of Hinkley, according to a settlement reached this week with state water quality officials.

Half the money will go toward construction of a pipeline to carry clean drinking water to Hinkley School, which serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The water source is located outside the contaminated area.

Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board‘s prosecution team alleged that PG&E violated a cleanup order for three years by failing to contain hexavalent chromium contamination and allowing the underground plume of tainted water to spread.

“This is one small step, an incremental step,” board Chairman Don Jardine said in a statement. “While we wish there were more, and more for the entire community, the school is a focal point for the community, and the project will benefit the school.”

The plume is a now about a half-mile from the school’s wells, raising concerns from parents, said Lauri Kemper, an assistant executive officer for the water board. PG&E has been supplying bottled water to the school.

The agreement approved Wednesday also requires the company to pump and treat groundwater to remove contamination on the north side of the community.

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