By Tracy Correa
The first few whole-house water treatment systems are now operational at Hinkley homes with more expected to follow as Monday’s (Oct. 15) deadline nears to take advantage of a water-treatment program offered by PG&E.
First announced in April, the utility is offering whole-house water treatment systems that use ion exchange and reverse osmosis technologies to safely remove chromium-6 from well water in the Mojave Desert community. (See a video on how the state-of-the art whole-house water systems work.)
So far, feedback from those with the new water treatment systems has been positive.
PG&E worked diligently with the residents to coordinate the installation and the high-grade treatment systems they were provided, said Jose Moreno-Jimenez, PG&E’s community relations manager in Hinkley.
“The residents are pleased,” he said. “And the storage tanks were an added bonus…. Some folks don’t have storage capacity or tanks in Hinkley,” said Moreno-Jimenez
The storage tanks provided with the new systems allow residents to save water for later use – an option most never had before.
Hinkley residents have options
PG&E’s voluntary program provides Hinkley residents with a choice of several whole-house water options for indoor uses such as drinking, cooking and bathing. Costs are covered by the utility and the program replaces the bottled water program that has been provided to residents who live within 1 mile of the boundary for the chromium-6 plume.
Under the program, PG&E provides for one of the following two whole-house water options (including installation, maintenance and monitoring of the systems):
- Drilling a deeper well (where feasible) on the property to draw water from the lower aquifer, or;
- Installing individual whole-house systems that treat water at the well head (supplemented by small under-sink treatment systems).
The state-of-the-art treatment systems remove chromium-6 very effectively providing treated water to the whole house, said Jeff McCarthy, PG&E’s site manager for chromium remediation in Hinkley.
“At each sink, a reverse-osmosis unit provides water that meets all primary and secondary drinking water standards,” he said.
For those families who feel neither water treatment option meets their needs, PG&E will offer to purchase the property following an appraisal.
About 300 households could benefit from the program — a number that far exceeds the approximately 20 homes that PG&E would have been required to develop a new, permanent source of water under a state regulatory agency’s order last year.
Eligibility has expanded
To be eligible residences must meet the following criteria: The property must have an active domestic well and be located within 1 mile of the chromium-6 plume. And, the domestic well must be tested by PG&E and found to have detectable amounts of chromium 6.
A property purchase option has been available to Hinkley residents since Nov. 2010 and so far, 206 property owners have entered negotiations with PG&E. Of those 206 owners, 85 offers have been accepted, 34 are in escrow and 51 purchases have been finalized.
However, the whole-house water program expanded the eligibility guidelines for property purchase to within one-mile of the plume and any detectable chromium. Now, more households can consider whether to sell or stay and take advantage of the water treatment systems provided by PG&E. So far, approximately 60 percent have expressed an initial interest in property purchase, and around 40 percent have expressed a desire to remain in Hinkley.
In recent months, PG&E representatives have met with hundreds of eligible residents to discuss the whole-house water program options.
The whole-house water program is part of PG&E’s ongoing effort to listen and respond to the concerns of Hinkley residents and take responsibility for the contamination there from decades past. PG&E used chromium to prevent rust in cooling towers at the natural-gas compressor station in Hinkley during the 1950s and 1960s—a common industry practice at the time.
The utility has been working in partnership with the local Community Advisory Committee launched last year and the whole-house water program is a direct result of discussions with the community group.
The original deadline for signing up for the whole-house water program was Aug. 31, but it was extended to Oct. 15 to give residents more time to make a decision.
Eligible residents who have not met with PG&E to discuss their options are encouraged to call (760) 253-7896 to schedule an appointment.
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com