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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.
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The community is commonly associated with Pacific Gas & Electric since it was the location of a compressor station for PG&E's massive natural gas transmission pipelines. The natural gas has to be re-compressed approximately every 350 miles (560 km), and the station uses large cooling towers to cool the compressors. Between 1952 and 1966, the water used in these cooling towers contained hexavalent chromium to prevent rust in the machinery. Since the water was stored between uses in unlined ponds, it ultimately severely contaminated the groundwater in the town.
A study released in 2010 by the California Cancer Registry showed that, despite the contamination, cancer rates in Hinkley "remained unremarkable from 1988 to 2008". An epidemiologist involved in the study said that "the 196 cases of cancer reported during the most recent survey of 1996 through 2008 were less than what he would expect based on demographics and the regional rate of cancer."
The study referenced by Washington Post in the article is not provided therein and could not be found nor substantiated based on the California Cancer Registry which is claimed to be the source. However, based on the WashPost article, 196 cases over 12 years for a population of 1915 equates to roughly 853 cases per 100k population per year. Based on the stats at California Cancer Rates, San Bernardino County averaged 359/100k/yr over the same time period. That's 276% of the "expected value".
Average Cr(VI) levels in Hinkley were recorded as 1.19 ppb with a peak of 3.09 ppb. The PG&E Topock Compressor Station averaged 7.8 ppb and peaks at 31.8 ppb based on the PG&E Background Study. Compare to the California proposed health goal of 0.02 ppb.
This is apparently a widespread problem and not isolated to Hinkley.
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".
- Schwartz, Naoki (2010-12-13) Survey shows unremarkable cancer rate in CA town, Washington Post
- "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