PG&E requests changes to program
Residents already OK'd for water purification system not affected
HINKLEY • Pacific Gas and Electric Co. this week proposed changes in the eligibility requirements for the utility’s free water purification system.
The request to modify future eligibility comes nearly two weeks after the California Department of Public Health proposed the first-ever maximum contaminant level for hexavalent chromium in drinking water at 10 parts per billion.
PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said Wednesday the company’s request was spurred by the state’s proposal.
None of the wells tested right now in Hinkley are above 10 ppb and 90 percent of wells are under 3.1 ppb, Smith said.
The benchmark 3.1 ppb has been set in Hinkley as the amount of naturally-occurring hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, in the ground prior to PG&E’s contamination, he said.
PG&E was responsible for contaminating the groundwater in Hinkley in the 1950s and 60s near the company’s compressor station on Community Boulevard. Industrial waste containing chromium-6 was discharged into unlined ponds near the facility.
Currently, land owners affected by groundwater contamination have the choice of receiving a free purification system, receiving free water bottles or selling their property to PG&E.
In a letter to the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board on Tuesday, PG&E asked that any Hinkley resident potentially eligible in the future for the whole house replacement water program meet two changed criteria: live within the plume boundary and have domestic well detections of chromium-6 above 3.1 ppb.
That’s different than the current requirement, defined as those who live within one mile of the plume boundary and have domestic well detections of chromium-6 above 0.06 ppb.
Under the proposal, PG&E would continue to offer bottled water to future eligible residents within the boundary who have domestic well detections of chromium-6 below 3.1 ppb.
Hinkley residents who are already eligible for the program, which has expanded since its inception in 2010, would not be affected should the proposal be approved.
Smith said the company is requesting these changes be enacted moving forward.
“The idea behind it is, there is going to be a period of time that the proposed statewide standard for chromium-6 is going to be evaluated,” he said. “(But now) we kind of have that guidepost.”
Lahontan Assistant Executive Officer Lauri Kemper confirmed the water board had received PG&E’s proposal and that it was “under evaluation.”
The board will likely first put it out for 30- to 60-day public review, Kemper said. The board could then potentially hold a hearing to discuss the requested modification.
The state’s proposed chromium-6 standard is expected to be finalized by August 2014 — which PG&E says will ultimately set the standard for continued program eligibility.
Staff Writer Brooke Self contributed to this report.
Shea Johnson can be reached at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com or 760-256-4126