By Paul Hughes
Pacific Gas & Electric objected to a lawsuit filed by 47 past and present Hinkley residents, claiming allegations that the public utility “wantonly” polluted the groundwater with a toxic chemical are defective.
In a motion to dismiss the case, which was filed Thursday in Barstow Superior Court, PG&E attorneys argue that there is confusion in the residents’ suits over who, if anyone, was injured and that the statute of limitations has run out on many of their claims.
PG&E spokesman Paul Ward said the company would not comment specifically on the suit, but said the latest filing asserts their belief that it as not merit.
“Our feeling is the suit doesn’t state sufficient facts to support their claims,” he said.
“Plaintiffs allege that PG&E recklessly tainted the water supply with the toxin Chromium 6, which caused them numerous health problems. ”
A hearing has been set for Aug. 2.
Plaintiffs allege that PG&E recklessly tainted the water supply with the toxin Chromium 6, which caused them numerous health problems. They also claim the death of week-old Amanda Walker in 1976 was the result of her parents being subject to the chemical in their drinking water.
PG&E used Chromium 6 as an ant-corrosive at its Community Boulevard compressor station from 1952 to 1966. The area around the station is now part of a major clean-up effort launched two years ago.
Most of the plaintiffs no longer live in the area, having sold their homes to PG&E. Today, the area around the compressor station, on Summerset and Fairview roads, contained piles of demolished houses, twisted metal and wood.
“Because of the high toxicity of the compound … there existed and now exists a high probability and a virtual certainty of injury and/or death to any individual or animal breathing the contaminated air or using the groundwater for extended domestic use,” the lawsuit states.
Edward Masry, attorney for the families, said the company in 1987 gave wrong information to his clients about the safety of the water they were using.
“They told the people that it was safe to swim in the water and to clean in it – that’s worse than drinking it,” he said. “There was physical harm done or within reasonable certainty, will be done.”
Without elaborating, Masry said he plans to amend the suit and make new allegations. “We believe we have all the people who could have possibly been affected,” he said.
The family of Gregory and Roberta Walker are the only ones who remain in the affected area. In a brief discussion, Roberta Walker refused comment, referring questions to Masry.
Masry said the Walkers have not been offered fair market value for their property.
The suit lists 18 causes of action and seeks an unspecified amount of punitive, special and general damages. Among other accusations, the suit alleges negligence, assault, fraud and deceit.
“Due to defendants actions, all plaintiffs have suffered ailments ranging from rare forms of cancer, birth defects, autoimmune deficiencies, chronic headaches and other problems for which medical attention has been required and will continue to be required in the future,” the 100-page suit states.
In its motion to dismiss the suit, PG&E stated it was not clear who was harmed by the chemical or who the plaintiffs are.
“The same plaintiffs are identified in each of these causes of action, but they do not represent the totality of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit. Thus, there is great uncertainty as to who the plaintiffs are, let alone how they are injured,” it states in part.
PG&E has stated that since 1987 it has taken the lead in correcting the problem.
“The facts of the case will show unequivocally that PG&E has since 1987 actually assumed the responsible role in attempting to limit the scope of harm, if any, to the residents in the area.”