Justice to Hinkley, CA is served!

Thanks to Erin Brockovich and Edward Masry. (Devin Legg)

PG&E Lawsuit

The town of Hinkley, California, located in the Mojave Desert, had its groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium starting in 1952, resulting in a legal case against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and a multi-million-dollar settlement, 44 years later. All thanks to Erin Brockovich and Edward Masry

How did the Chromium 6 get into the Drinking Water?

Between 1952 and 1966, the water used in these cooling towers contained hexavalent chromium – now recognized as a carcinogen – to prevent rust in the machinery. The water was stored between uses in unlined ponds, which allowed it to percolate into the groundwater. This led to groundwater pollution, affecting soil and contaminating water wells near the compressor station, with a plume approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) long and nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) wide.

Average hexavalent chromium levels in Hinkley were recorded as 1.19 parts-per-billion (ppb) with an estimated peak of 20 ppb. The PG&E Topock Compressor Station averaged 7.8 ppb and peaks at 31.8 ppb based on the PG&E Background Study. The proposed California health goal for hexavalent chromium is 0.02 ppb.

How to Protect Yourself from Contaminated Water

Always make sure to have your local water company come check your water line at least once a month, also make sure it is accessible for them to check it. If your water tastes or feels funny at all, call your water company right away or report it to city hall. If you begin to get sick for unknown reasons, remember that one of the causes could be from your water, make sure to have it checked. If you get a rash or have skin pain, that could also be caused by your water because it may not be safe. Always stay careful and have a full knowledge on your water.

Erin Brockovich's Path to the Lawsuit

Erin Brockovich was a broke, single mother in desperate need of a job. On her way home from another failed job interview, she is hit by another driver and is in need of neck surgery. To pay for the neck surgery she took the car accident case to court, but lost. She lost because her lawyer "screwed her over". Soon after the case was over, she decided to go back to the law firm and demand a job because she thought she deserved it after what happened in court. Edward Masry, her lawyer, decided to give her a job at his Firm even with her lack of formal education. When she is asked to file some papers, she asks why there are medical forms mixed with the legal files. She learns the medical forms are fro, all the people that live in homes that PG&E are trying to purchase to avoid being sued. Erin investigates this further by talking to many of the people that are sick and use PG&E water. She builds up her case, and after almost two years, she wins in court and wins the trial. PG&E received a lawsuit of $330 million. Edward Masry established at the beginning that he receives 40% of the cut, which came out to $133 million. Erin received a cut of about $2 million, which helped her to finally get her life together. The rest of the money helped all of the families who suffered from drinking chromium 6 water pay their medical bills. Justice is served.

Editor's Opinion

After writing this article on the case, I realize how blind I have been to serious danger. Luckily I was not affected by any water that has been contaminated with Chromium 6, but this lawsuit definitely taught me to be more careful in the future. All thanks to Erin Brockovich and Edward Masry.