Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will pay $20 million to settle the last in a series of lawsuits that claimed it was responsible for poisoning water in the Mojave Desert town of Hinkley, as depicted in the movie “Erin Brockovich.”
The settlement was agreed to last week in Los Angeles, resolving claims that 104 people were exposed to water that contained chromium 6, a possible carcinogen. The settlement was the last involving a series of suits that claimed PG&E contamination sickened hundreds of people in Kings, Riverside and San Bernardino counties from the 1950s through the mid-1980s.
The 2000 movie “Erin Brockovich” was based up the1996 case that ended with a $333 million settlement on behalf of more than 600 Hinkley residents. Since then, PG&E agreed to pay $295 million to settle other lawsuits involving about 1,100 people. The final lawsuit was filed about seven years ago.
PG&E spokesman Jon Tremayne said the settlement ends the last remaining lawsuit against the company over chromium pollution in the region. The chemical was dumped into unlined ponds in the 1950s, when, the company asserts, no one knew of the potential danger.
“Clearly, what happened in Hinkley should not have happened and we’re sorry that it did,” Tremayne said Thursday. “It’s not the way we do business and it wouldn’t happen in our company today.”