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Hinkley is an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert, in San Bernardino County, California, U.S., 14 miles (23 km) northwest of Barstow, 59 miles (95 km) east of Mojave, 47 miles (76 km) north of Victorville and about 121 miles (195 km) driving distance north-northeast of Los Angeles. Just north of California State Highway 58, the residents have faced concerns over chromium-6 in their well water from the world’s largest plume of this cancer-causing chemical.
Hinkley, California, had its groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium starting in 1952, resulting from a compressor station for natural gas transmission pipelines. Legal action against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) followed and residents of Hinkley filed a class action.
In 1993, Erin Brockovich, a legal clerk to lawyer Edward L. Masry, investigated the apparent elevated cluster of illnesses in the community linked to hexavalent chromium. The efforts of Brockovich and Masry, and the plight of the people of Hinkley, became widely known when the film Erin Brockovich was released in 2000.
After many arguments, the case was referred to arbitration with maximum damages of $400 million. The case was settled in 1996 for $333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history. In 2006, PG&E agreed to pay $295 million to settle cases involving another 1,100 people statewide for hexavalent chromium-related claims.
The United States does not define a census-designated place called Hinkley, but it does define a ZIP Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA), 92347. Because Hinkley is contained within this ZCTA, it is possible to obtain census data from the United States 2000 Census for the area even though data for "Hinkley" are unavailable. As of the census of 2000, the ZCTA of 92347 had a 2000 population of 1,915. Of note is the fact that there were 485 people (26.7 percent of the population) five years in age or older categorized as having a disability, a higher than average figure when compared to the national average of about 19.3 percent.
- Steinberg, Jim (March 18, 2015). "Hinkley continues to shrink: Desert town set to lose only market, gas station, Post Office".
- Baes, Michael (July 29, 2011). "Final Technical Support Document on Public Health Goal for Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water". Water. Oakland, CA: California Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
The health-protective level is based on avoidance of potential carcinogenic effects.
- Chromium-6 Is Widespread in US Tap Water, Environmental Working Group, 2010
- Lovett, Ian (23 January 2016). "Gas Leak in Los Angeles Has Residents Looking Warily Toward Flint". New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Hinkley: A ghost town in the making San Bernardino County Sun
- www.HinkleyGroundwater.com Hinkley Groundwater Remediation Program Hinkley Community Advisory Committee Website
- U.S. Census Bureau American Fact Finder