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Review period for Hinkley clean-up report extended

BARSTOW • Hinkley residents on Wednesday night expressed concerns that their town is shrinking as a result of the hexavalent chromium in the groundwater, urging the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to take action in the cleanup.

Board members extended the review and comment period for the draft environmental impact report for an additional 15 days in response to citizen comments. The report presents five action alternatives and mitigation measures for cleaning up the contamination that’s plagued the rural community for decades.

Among some of the concerns residents raised are the loss in property values, the water quality and the slow process in cleaning up the contamination. 

“Our community has died big time and I mean big time,” one resident said. “It is going to take 26 to 40 years to clean this up.”

Another resident suggested hiring an independent water cleanup company to do the job. Some residents wanted the Environmental Protection Agency and USGS to step in.

“The endangered species we need to worry about are the people of Hinkley, California,” one man said. “My biggest hope is that you can prove me wrong.”

The chromium 6 contamination in Hinkley began in the 1950s when Pacific Gas and Electric 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 Lahontan to stop the spread of the chemical and reduce it to background levels. 

Hinkley resident Bob Morris expressed concerns that not all the wells in Hinkley are being tested by PG&E to determine the level of chromium 6 contamination.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith on Thursday said his company is working on the cleanup under the direction of the water board.

“Any wells within the mile of the plume boundary that wants their domestic wells tested, then we will absolutely test their wells,” he said. “We want to do whatever to make sure the community is as comfortable and confident and if they have concerns we want to make sure to address them.”

Lahontan water board member Amy Home told residents on Wednesday night to let board members know their ideas for alternative mitigation measures. 

“I hear from the people of Hinkley a lot of frustration ... I feel your frustration,” she said. “What we hear from you is the (community advisory committee) process is not working as it should.”

The review and comment deadline on the draft environmental impact report has been extended to Nov. 15. For more information, visit http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/rwqcb6/water_issues/projects/pge/index.shtml.


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