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article imageErin Brockovich takes on Pacific Gas & Electric, again

By Igor I. Solar     Mar 10, 2011 in Environment
Hinkley - Environmental activist Erin Brockovich has returned to Hinkley, California, on suspicion that the discharges of toxic hexavalent chromium have continued to spread through the soil and aquifer in the area.
Brockovich, now president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, led a lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) between 1991 and 1996 for contaminating with chromium VI (CrVI) for 30 years the aquifers in the vicinity of Hinkley, a small town in southern California.
That lawsuit forced the utility company to pay $ 333 million to more than 600 affected by the toxicity of the water, the highest compensation for environmental damage and harm to human health in the history of the U.S. justice system.
PG&E had alerted Hinkley’s concerned townsfolk about the presence of chromium in the aquifer but said that it was nothing to worry about, because chromium was included in many multivitamins. However, it did not clarify that it is the trivalent chromium form which does exist naturally in many fruits and vegetables and is occasionally included in multivitamin compounds. Hexavalent chromium can be toxic when ingested and is known to be a carcinogen.
Fifteen years later, Brockovich’s team began to take water samples again and found that toxic levels are two times higher than those estimates by Pacific Gas & Electric. Brockovich is scheduled to present their findings at a meeting of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board as a first step to what seems to become a sequel of the events of the 90s.
Roberta Walker, a resident of Hinkley who initially contacted Brockovich with the problem in 1991, warned the activist again that the company had started buying land in the area and distributing water among the neighbours, as it happened the first time.
In 2008, Pacific Gas & Electric found that chromium had begun to move through the ground, but residents of Hinkley were told that the water quality met the required quality and safety standards.
Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation claims in its website that the company "is committed to being an environmental leader by providing safe, economical, and reliable products and services in a responsible and environmentally sensitive manner..."
The events of the 1990s were documented in the movie "Erin Brockovich" (2000) directed by Steven Soderbergh (Video of movie trailer above). Julia Roberts played the leading role as Brockovich; she earned an Oscar. Additionally, Albert Finney won Oscar for best actor in a supporting role. PG&E and CrVI play the villains (no Oscars).
"She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees" (Movie tagline)
More about Contaminated water, hexavalent chromium, Erin brockovich, Environmental activism
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