Hinkley ready to sell houses
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/17/2011 08:34:51 PM PST
Residents of the High Desert community of Hinkley, desiring to sell their homes to Pacific Gas and Electric, claim the utility is dragging its feet after recent appraisals of their properties.
In the past six months, at least two residents have seen the levels of the cancer-causing chromium 6 in their drinking water wells increase above the maximum contaminant level of 3.1 parts per billion.
In November, PG&E announced it was expanding its home buying program, sending letters to about 100 Hinkley residents living within the boundary of a 2 1/2-mile-long contaminated groundwater plume.
The utility told the residents they would be eligible for the program if they lived above the plume, performed agricultural activities on their land, including pumping, and that their properties were potential sites for PG&E’s future remediation facilities and/or infrastructure.
Several people have since expressed interest but have not been satisfied with the results so far. They expressed those concerns at a meeting last week at Rosita’s restaurant in Barstow, hosted by environmental and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich.
Brockovich, who inspired the 2000 film of the same title, was the catalyst in the landmark litigation in the 1990s that led to PG&E’s $333 million settlement with more than 600 Hinkley residents who claimed the utility’s contamination of their tap water spurred myriad ailments, including cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, and damage to their reproductive systems.
In December, PG&E sent appraiser Rod Hefington to the homes of Amber Baca and Tom Cary. Hefington arrived at Baca’s home on Dec. 9 and Cary’s home on Dec. 23, appraising both.
Since then, communication between PG&E’s head of land acquisition, Rich Echols, Baca and Cary has been at best sparse and at worst nill, according to Cary and Baca.
Baca, who lives on Summerset Road near Sante Fe Avenue, said she last spoke with Echols on Jan. 7. He told her he would get back to her the following Monday but never did, she said. So she started calling him.
“I’ve called him every day and he doesn’t call back,” Baca said.
Tom Cary, a 13-year Hinkley resident, said PG&E tested his well in August and the level of chromium 6 detected was 3.5 parts per billion.
In October, he said, he saw a bevy of PG&E trucks outside the Desert View Dairy, which the utility owns, near his home. A couple of days later, he said, PG&E arrived at his home to test his well again. This time, the chromium 6 level was 2.9, just below the maximum contaminant level of 3.1.
Still, that hasn’t eased his concerns about groundwater contamination, and he wants out of the town he has long called home.
“I haven’t heard anything from (PG&E) yet,” Cary said. “I was supposed to get a formal written buyout proposal by the end of January, and so far I haven’t received anything.”
Echols did not return repeated calls to his office Monday seeking comment.
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