HINKLEY - Hinkley residents have another big decision this year.

Many are already having to choose between getting Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to install a whole household water filtration system in their home or selling out to PG & E.

Now the Lahontan Regional Water Control Board wants to hear how Hinkley residents want that infamous plume to disappear.

As part of a nearly 900-page draft environmental impact report, the water board wants to hear resident preferences among four clean-up options, which will reduce the chromium in Hinkley's nearly 6-mile long plume.

In the 1950s and 1960s, before the cancer-causing properties of chromium 6 were known, water laced with the chemical was periodically dumped into an unlined pit, where it seeped into the groundwater.

Work on EIR began in 2010 and its completion is considered a milestone among the steps needed for large-scale cleanup of Hinkley's water. The final EIR is expected to be approved in January.

Water board officials last week held an informational session at the Hinkley school to help residents digest the massive document.

And they passed out a "public questionnaire" to help residents express their preferred option. The fastest cleanup time is 29 years to reach an overall plume chromium 6 reading of 3.1 parts per billion and 75 years to reach 1.2 parts per billion.

In a study that has been largely discredited, the naturally occurring chromium 6 background level in the Hinkley area was shown to be between 1.2 and 3.1 parts per billion.

A new background study is in the planning stages.

The faster the cleanup time, the more environmental impacts are generated.

Environmental impacts include lowering the water table and increasing levels of uranium, arsenic, manganese and other chemicals in the water.

A slower method, with far fewer environmental effects, would take 40 years to reach 3.1 parts per billion and 95 years to reach 1.2 part per billion of chromium 6.

The water board's questionnaire asks residents "would you rather the chromium-contamination cleanup time be:

As quick as possible regardless of the environmental impacts;

Equally balanced between speed and environmental impacts;

Take as long as necessary to avoid most or all environmental impacts;

Not sure;

Don't care.

During the meeting, several residents said they thought it was inappropriate for the water board to select cleanup methods when the full extent of the plume isn't known.

Lauri Kemper, water agency assistant executive officer, said that environmental law in California allows remediation to begin on the best available information and allows modifications to be made as new information becomes available.

After the meeting, opinions varied as to how the cleanup should proceed.

Jon Quass, co-chairman the Community Action Committee, a Hinkley citizen's group that advises PG&E, said he believes the clean-up should proceed as rapidly as possible.

"We should do it the fastest way to kick that chromium (6) out out of there... . We can clean up the manganese and arsenic later," he said.

Quass said ground zero, where the ponds were at PG&E's Hinkley natural gas compressor station, should be attacked vigorously first, and once that is cleaned up, lesser amounts of chromium 6 along the plume will virtually clean up on their own."

Lifelong Hinkley resident John Turner said he doesn't care how the plume is cleaned up - nor how much time it takes - as long as he and everyone else in Hinkley has clean water available to them.

Hinkley resident Gary Halstead said he needs more time to review the options.


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