Water Woes Prompt Exodus From Erin Brockovich Town

Quarter of population has sold homes

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 23, 2012 2:34 PM CST

(Newser) – Seems Erin Brockovich's heroics weren't enough to end her town's toxin troubles. More than a decade after the eponymous Julia Roberts film about the battle over toxic groundwater, Hinkley, Calif., is in the midst of a new wave of water concerns. The crisis has prompted more than a quarter of the population—some 200 people—to sell their homes to the very company at the center of the controversy, NPR reports. Pacific Gas & Electric offered to buy properties after residents began suffering rashes.

It's deja vu for a 36-year-old who was a teen when PG&E paid $333 million to residents after polluting the water with chromium. "I sat and I listened, and I was just like—these are the words they were telling us in '97," she says. She had hoped to stay in the town, thinking the danger had faded. But now, "I just want to leave." Others, however, are determined to stay. The company says a toxic plume is bigger than previously thought, but hasn't actually expanded. "The reason that it's larger is because we are testing in areas that haven't been previously tested," notes a PG&E rep, who adds that in addition to property purchases, the firm has offered residents home water-treatment systems.

In a Dec. 9, 2010 photo, the swimming pool behind the home of Roberta Walker, which she says she has filled with bottled water, is seen in Hinkley, Calif.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
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