PG&E’s Continued Efforts to Clean-up Decades Old Chromium 6 Contamination in San Bernardino County

PG&E’s Continued Efforts to Clean-up Decades Old Chromium 6 Contamination in San Bernardino County

San Bernardino, CA

In late January, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control relived a somewhat familiar scenario when it convened a public meeting at the Needles Senior Center to provide local citizens with information about efforts being taken to redress chromium contamination from the Topock compressor station maintained by Pacific Gas & Electric. 

In 2000, the movie Erin Brockovich brought world-wide attention to the small San Bernardino County community of Hinkley where in the 1990s residents learned their groundwater was polluted with the cancer-causing heavy metal, Chromium 6. The pollutant had seeped into the ground water after it was dumped into unlined ponds at Pacific Gas and Electric’s compressor station in the area during the 1950s and '60s. 

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of those impacted by the contamination and when the case settled for $333 million in 1996, it was the largest settlement ever awarded in a direct-action lawsuit in the nation’s history. 

The concerns that surfaced in Hinkley were just the beginning. During the 1940s and 1950s, PG&E built a natural gas transmission system that extended from the oil and gas fields of western Texas and New Mexico, through Arizona and into California. The pipeline was needed to provide power to plants and customers between the community of Bakersfield and the Oregon border. 

To help facilitate the transmission, PG&E built a network of eight compressor stations that were linked by thousands of miles of pipelines to transport the natural gas to its various destinations. The company used Chromium 6 (hexavalent chromium) in the cooling towers to prevent rust until the mid-1960s. 

As PG&E now prepares to clean up its Topack compressor station, the Department of Toxic Substance Control previewed and summarized what is called the “Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report for the Draft Pacific Gas & Electric Topock Compressor Station Final Groundwater Remediation Project.” 

The January meeting provided an opportunity for the public to provide oral comments regarding the proposed clean-up effort and for participants to have their questions about the project answered by officials. 

The public comment period for the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report was opened January 12 and extends through February 27, 2017. During this period, written comments may be filed.

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