HINKLEY >> State regulators have released a draft order for the partial cleanup of the world’s largest contamination site for cancer-causing chromium-6.
In addition to setting cleanup deadlines for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the polluter, the document consolidates dozens of previously issued water agency requirements into one document.
“The order holds PG&E to specific dates” in an intermediate cleanup stage, said Lauri Kemper, the Lahontan water agency’s executive director.
The final cleanup order is years away and it is anticipated the work to complete that task will span decades.
“We are glad this is out,” said Kevin Sullivan, PG&E’s director of chromium remediations.
In the coming days, PG&E “technical teams” will be digesting the document and asking if “we have a technical way to achieve those goals” and, in some cases, have permits lined up (with other government agencies) which would allow for the work to start, Sullivan said.
PG&E anticipates providing Lahontan regulators with comments where appropriate, he said.
The chromium-6 in Hinkley’s water is the legacy of 12 years of operations, from 1952 to 1964, when chromium-6 was used at PG&E’s natural gas compressor station and dumped into unlined ponds where it seeped into the groundwater.
“We have our work cut out for us,” said Daron Banks, a community leader and member of Hinkley’s Community Advisory Committee, which works as a liaison between the community, PG&E and state regulators.
“This is not the final order,” Banks said, adding that his committee would be submitting carefully thought out comments for water regulators to consider for a final document.
Banks said the draft order “leaves PG&E too much room for interpretation and some things we agreed upon (between the committee and the water agency) are not clearly there.”
In 2013, the state Department of Public Health revised downward the maximum contaminant level for chromium-6 in drinking water from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.
No Hinkley resident draws well water above that new state regulation.
Federal regulators have established a much higher limit for the rest of the nation: 100 parts per billion.
Areas where chromium-6 pollution levels in underground water are at their highest concentrations are owned and controlled by PG&E.
It was not immediately clear when the cleanup document might go before the governor-appointed panel that oversees the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The length for the public comment period is expected to be announced in a few days.
Among other requirements, the proposed order requires PG&E to reach and maintain 50 parts per billion in 90 percent of all monitoring wells having chromium-6 detection levels above 50 ppb, by Dec. 31, 2021.
Similarly the order requires PG&E to reach and maintain 10 parts per billion in 80 percent of the wells where chromium-6 detection rates are between 10 parts per billion and 50 parts per billion by Dec. 31, 2026.