PG&E Corp., owner of California's largest utility, is facing a water pollution suit like the one featured in the movie "Erin Brockovich" after 40 California desert-town residents saw the film and went to court.
The plaintiffs claim they learned of PG&E's alleged chromium contamination of ground water around Hinkley when the movie was released in March. They sued yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging negligence, wrongful death, destruction of evidence and fraud.
"The long duration of the plaintiffs' exposure could have been avoided if the defendants had simply told the truth," the Hinkley residents claim.
The film features Julia Roberts as a legal secretary who forced PG&E to pay a $333-million settlement to a group of Hinkley residents for poisoning the water near three of the company's compressor plants. Ed Masry, a lawyer played by Albert Finney in the movie, and attorney Thomas Girardi are among those representing the plaintiffs.
San Francisco-based PG&E allegedly used chromium at three of its plants in the Mojave Desert from 1951 to 1982, then disposed of the waste water in unlined ponds near the plants.