Last week, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Lahontan Region (LRWQCB), issued a Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) in its role as lead CEQA agency in connection with its ongoing investigation of chromium-contaminated groundwater near Hinkley, California.
According to the Draft EIR, PG&E’s Hinkley Compressor Station is used to transport natural gas along pipelines from Texas to California. In the 1950s and early 1960s, cooling tower water was treated with a compound containing chromium to prevent corrosion, and the water was then discharged to unlined ponds. That resulted in contamination to the soil and groundwater beneath the site with total and hexavalent chromium. As of 2008, a 1.3-mile wide plume of chromium-contaminated groundwater extended about two miles to the north of the Compressor Station. The LRWQCB ordered PG&E to take remedial action in a cleanup and abatement order (CAO [pdf]) and adopted waste discharge requirements in connection with the remediation. Despite the LRWQCB’s enforcement action, the plume had grown to approximately 5.4 miles in length and up to 2.4 miles wide at its widest point by late 2011. The LRWQCB is now preparing to issue a new CAO that will set specific remediation requirements, including the cleanup levels and the time periods by which those levels must be met.
The Draft EIR discusses and evaluates several alternative remedial actions, ranging from a no project alternative to a series of alternatives that incorporate various types of remediation, including groundwater extraction, clean water injection, land treatment, and in-situ or ex-situ treatment. The various alternatives are discussed in detail in Chapter 2 (pdf) of the Draft EIR.
The Draft EIR does not recommend a particular alternative as environmentally superior for the proposed remediation, noting that each of the various alternatives has associated benefits and disadvantages. The alternative that would result in the most rapid remediation of the chromium plume would also result in the highest level of groundwater drawdown, the highest level of remedial byproducts, and the largest amount of disturbance and loss of special‐status species habitat. At the other extreme, the no project alternative would have the least groundwater drawdown, the lowest level of remedial byproducts, and the least new disturbance of special‐status species habitat, but it would also not remediate the entire chromium plume. The Draft EIR concludes that “[b]ecause the alternatives involved fundamental tradeoffs between different impacts, there is no objective way to determine a single environmentally superior alternative without making value judgments about different impacts.” (Draft EIR, at 4-60.)
The LRWQCB is now accepting public comments on the Draft EIR until 5:00 p.m. on October 19, 2012. Written comments should be addressed to Anne Holden, Lahontan Water Board, 2501 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe, California 96150. Comments may also be faxed to 530-544-2271 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The LRWQCB will also consider comments at two public meetings. The first is scheduled for Wednesday, August 29, at the Hinkley Elementary/Middle School, located at 37600 Hinkley Road in Hinkley (map) starting at 6 p.m. The second will be conducted on Wednesday, September 12, at the Hampton Inn, 2710 Lenwood Road in Barstow (map) starting at 7 p.m.