Environmental Law

Erin Brockovich Goes Back to Work on Hinkley, Where Residents Claim New Chromium Problems


An environmental contamination case that made paralegal Erin Brockovich famous, after she was portrayed by actress Julia Roberts in a Oscar-winning movie about the litigation, may not be over yet.

Some residents around Hinkley, Calif., say they’re experiencing new problems with hexavalent chromium-tainted groundwater, after a contaminated plume spread beyond a containment area established in 2008 by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., according to state officials. Among those who claim they are suffering again is a lead plaintiff who worked with Brockovich to get the ball rolling on the original case, reports the Los Angeles Times in a lengthy article.

It resulted in a $333 million settlement by PG&E in 1997 to 660 Hinkley residents.

Now, says Roberta Walker, “there is a poisonous plume moving towards me, like a plague” at the new home she bought several miles away from her former residence with the nearly $1 million she got from the settlement. But “Erin told me not to worry. She said she’ll take care of me.”

However, work that the utility has been doing to remediate the area has had a positive effect, according to Robert Doss, a PG&E principal engineer. And, while the paramenters of the plume may shift from time to time and families understandably may worry, the plume isn’t growing overall and concerns about health issues may be exaggerated, he says.

A hearing is scheduled in May.

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