In 1997, Pacific Gas & Electric paid $333 million in settlements to residents of Hinkley, California over groundwater laced with cancer-causing chromium. Today, the same town from Erin Brockovich is under threat from a "plume" of chromium in the groundwater.
State investigators are looking into PG&E's "handling and reporting" of the plume of tainted groundwater that has seeped 1,800 feet outside its intended containment boundary. And PG&E is putting up some resistance:
These concentrations remain within the realms of naturally occurring background concentrations," said Robert C. Doss, PG&E principal engineer. "There is no way to determine whether our plume is having an impact or not."
Naturally, the only way to determine whether or not PG&E's "plume is having an impact or not" is for people to get cancer, no? State water officials say the "amoeba-like plume" is two-and-a-half miles long. PG&E officials say the plume's spread should have been hampered by a thick layer of clay which, obviously, it wasn't. Now, PG&E has started notifying select residents that they are eligible to receive free bottled water. Free! What a deal.
In a telephone interview, Brockovich said, "Once again, this is a community of sitting ducks. I'll be out there soon to help encourage people to get the word out, to start knocking on doors and examining water and soil test results. Then we'll decide how to proceed."
Brockovich said further litigation shouldn't be necessary, adding, "PG&E should step up to the plate, take responsibility and act on it. But I'm not holding my breath."
It's only a matter of time before we see Erin Brockovich Redux.
[Image via Getty]