Remember the film Erin Brockovitch? The story of birth defects, cancer and sickness in the town of Hinkley, CA didn’t stop there. This kind of thing drives me crazy and is completely avoidable.
Consider this: at the time when PG&E was “safely” depositing hexavalent chromium into unlined ponds, it was an acceptable practice. Why can’t we be slightly forward thinking by applying the latest technologies for waste containment instead of just getting by with what we can get away with legally? A geomembrane-lined pond for the hexavalent chromium solution might have cost $1M at the time to build, but that would have been an insignificant cost compared to what PG&E will ultimately be liable for. PG&E paid a $333 million settlement in 1996, but that was only the beginning. A $295 million settlement followed in 2006, followed by a $20M settlement in 2008. As of now, the toxic plume has spread well beyond the previously delineated contaminated zone. Residents of Hinkley, CA are being given the option of selling their houses to PG&E for fair market value or have PG&E install a water treatment system. According to the EPA, PG&E is in violation of a Cleanup and Abatement Order to maintain control of the plume. It simply keeps spreading and Hinkley, CA is turning into a ghost town.
The groundwater contamination was caused between 1952 and 1966. The use of geomembranes began in the early 1950’s. By the late 1960’s, synthetic liners were commonly used. “We should have used the technology available to us at the time” is probably what PG&E is thinking.
This is exactly why I do what I do. It’s not enough to install a geomembrane; make sure there are no holes in it as well! The technology exists so use it.
Read the full story on Hinkley, CA here: