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Diane Lee
Signs are posted in Hinkley warning drivers of the chromium 6 groundwater contamination.

Public meeting set on Hinkley groundwater cleanup

Hinkley residents gear up for hearing on clean-up plan

HINKLEY • Seventy-six-year-old Reynolds Ohai has called Hinkley his home for more than 25 years. He loves the quiet town and his friendly neighbors, but not the “dirty water.”

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is hosting its board meeting next week in Barstow to allow Hinkley residents a chance to comment on possible options for cleanup of elevated levels of chromium 6, a cancer-causing chemical found in the town’s groundwater. The board recently released a draft environmental impact report, which includes five action alternatives and mitigation measures.

“The residents will have a chance to hear a presentation on the key points of the (environmental impact report) and will have a chance to hear our water board ask questions of staff, and provide input to our water board members directly,” said Anne Holden, Hinkley EIR project manager. 

Ohai said he was discouraged after attending previous water board meetings, but hopes there will be a solution to cleaning up the contamination. While he no longer drinks water from the tap, he still uses it to bathe, wash dishes and do laundry. Ohai does not plan to move, even though Pacific Gas and Electric has offered to purchase his property.

“This little town of Hinkley is dying, people are just picking up and leaving ... they are not going to chase me out in spite of people leaving,” he said.

Hinkley resident Steve Hawkins, 65, will be moving out of his home by the end of October. He recently sold his property on Locust to PG&E.

“The chromium 6 levels are too high here,” he said.

The chromium 6 contamination in Hinkley began in the 1950s when PG&E used chromium 6 in cooling tower water in order to prevent rusting in its compressor station in Hinkley. The water was released into unlined ponds at the site, where it slowly seeped into the groundwater. PG&E has been ordered by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to stop the spread of the chemical and reduce it to background levels.

Results of state water quality testing conducted between 2000 and 2011 throughout California showed that about a third of the 7,000 drinking water sources tested had chromium 6 levels at or above that limit.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Jackrabbit Room at Hampton Inn, 2710 Lenwood Road in Barstow.

Visit http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/lahontan/board_info/agenda/2012/sep/item10.pdf to download more information. To review the draft environmental impact report, visit http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/rwqcb6/water_issues/projects/pge/index.shtml.

— Staff writer Katie Lucia contributed to this report.


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