200 Hinkley residents walking away from homes
Two-thirds of eligible homeowners take PG&E buyout
HINKLEY • Approximately two-thirds of eligible Hinkley households opted to participate in a property buyout by Pacific Gas and Electric, raising concerns about the future of the town.
In April, PG&E offered 300 Hinkley residents impacted by chromium 6 groundwater contamination three options and gave them until Oct. 15 to make their decision.
Approximately 30 households opted to remain on bottled water, 70 households opted for a whole household replacement system financed by PG&E and 200 households opted to accept PG&E’s offer to buy out their property.
Jeff Smith, spokesman for PG&E, noted that while these 200 households expressed initial interest, it will take time to appraise properties and complete negotiations.
“We will continue to engage with the community,” he explained. “We want there to continue to be a Hinkley.”
Between 1950 and 1960, PG&E used chromium 6 in its water cooling tower to prevent rust at its Hinkley natural gas compressor station. Chromium 6 polluted the groundwater after the cooling tower wastewater was released into unlined pools at the site. The water board has ordered PG&E to clean up the chromium plume and stop it fromspreading.
As a small town, Hinkley’s schools and businesses could be affected by the recent buyout plan.
“We need to know how many school-aged students this impacts,” explain Julie Clemmer, member of the Barstow Board of Education.
School enrollment has risen in Hinkley this year, and more than 50 students attend from outside the district. Clemmer attributes this to the quality ofeducation at the school.
“It’s not just a matter of dollars and cents. The school is the heart and soul of the community,” she said. “I hope we can do whatever it takes to keep the school open.”