HINKLEY (AP) – A utility is halting its program that supplied bottled water to a Mojave Desert community whose toxic chromium contamination was portrayed in the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

Pacific Gas & Electric notified residents of Hinkley on Wednesday that it would halt the program on Oct. 31 because levels of chromium-6 in local wells are now below California’s new drinking water standard of 10 parts per billion, the San Bernardino Sun reported.

About 200 residents of the unincorporated community receive Culligan and Sparkletts bottled water for cooking and drinking as an alternative to the well water but that will stop as of Oct. 31, the Sun said.

Also ending are a 2012 program that supplied home water filtration systems to 30 residents and a program under which the utility has purchased nearly 200 homes in the community since 2010, PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said.

During the 1950s and 1960s, PG&E used cancer-causing chromium-6 to kill algae and protect the metal at its Hinkley natural gas pumping station. Decades later, residents blamed their illnesses on a growing plume of contaminated groundwater.

The utility reached a $333 million settlement with some residents in a case portrayed in “Erin Brockovich.”

Some Hinkley residents questioned whether their water really is safe and said they hope to keep the bottled water flowing.

“I know 10 parts per billion is way too high,” said Daron Banks of Hinkley’s Community Advisory Committee. “I know people who have been exposed to less and they have significant health problems.”

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is responsible for cleaning up the toxic plume, notified some property owners last month that it can no longer require PG&E to provide alternative water sources because the chromium-6 levels are below the state safety limit that took effect on July 1.

Banks, Brockovich and others said they hope to get the California Water Resources Control Board to overrule that decision.


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.


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