PG&E Faces Lawsuits over Failure to Clean Up Contamination
In 1996, 636 residents of Hinkley, a small town on the Mojave Desert dependent on well water for survival, won a $333 million settlement against PG&E after it was determined that the company had allowed a toxic form of chromium to seep into the wells, and the company promised to clean up the contamination. However, 17 years later, the chromium is not only still there, but seems to be spreading to more wells in the area.
A Ghost Town
PG&E purchased approximately 130 of the homes with contaminated wells, bulldozing them, as people leave the town located just 15 miles northwest of Barstow in San Bernardino County. A movie, starring Julia Roberts, was based on the story of Erin Brockovich, the law clerk who won the original lawsuit. Many residents claim, however, that they cannot remain in the town with the groundwater remaining contaminated.
Class Action Lawsuit
The new class action lawsuit covers residents of the town that were not included in the Brockovich lawsuit because their homes were miles away from the contamination site, believing that PG&E would stop the spread of the contamination, keeping them safe. PG&E built a compressor station in 1952 in the area, using hexavalent chromium in the cooling system of the station. The carcinogenic substance was added to water in an effort to protect machinery in the plant from corrosion, and then dumping the contaminated water into unlined ponds, which led to the contamination of wells in the town.
Chromium Plume Moving
Recent tests of wells several miles from the original chromium plume have tested positive for the substance. However, the company claims that the discovery of chromium in more wells indicates better testing, not a spread of the plume, and that some of the chromium may be naturally occurring. According to the company overseeing the cleanup, many of the wells now showing chromium levels have been tested for years, and that some of the wells are showing rising chromium levels, indicating the plume has spread.
When a company contaminates groundwater with carcinogenic substances, a lawsuit may be in order. If you or your family have suffered due to a company's negligence, contact Frenkel & Frenkel for a free initial consultation regarding the contamination to see what rights you may have to collect for damages.