PG&E

By Jim Steinberg, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 01/12/14, 5:31 PM PST |

BARSTOW >> In the decades-long saga of the world’s largest contaminated underground water plume, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and the residents of Hinkley have never been so united for a goal: hiring U.S. Geological Survey Scientist John Izbicki.

Both sides have offered their support to get Izbicki, an internationally known research hydrologist, to conduct a multimillion-dollar, four-year study to settle the most controversial issue surrounding the town’s pollution, made famous by the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich.”: To find out what part of the chromium-6 in Hinkley’s groundwater belongs to PG&E and what part was put there by nature.

“This is a unique situation,” said Ian Webster, president of Project Navigator LTD., the scientific adviser to the Hinkley community said during a meeting in Barstow last week. “All parties at the table agree on something. We think this project is pivotal to moving the Hinkley solution ahead.”

Although a formal contract has not been signed, late last week, PG&E officials sent Izbicki what has been described as “thousands and thousands of megabytes” of data on well sample readings and other measurements that the San Francisco-based utility has been compiling for decades.

“The data will be used to understand where things are changing” in regard to chromium-6 in the Hinkley groundwater and thus help guide elements of the study, Izbicki said.

Work is beginning on the roughly $5 million study “on the honor system,” Izbicki said. There’s an assumption that a formal contract and funding mechanism will be developed and signed in a few months.

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