'Brockovich' town to lose market, gas station, post office

AP News
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Posted: Mar 19, 2015 8:33 PM
'Brockovich' town to lose market, gas station, post office

HINKLEY, Calif. (AP) — A Mojave Desert community where toxic chromium contamination was portrayed in the movie "Erin Brockovich" is set to lose its post office and its only gas station and convenience store.

Postal officials say they will be looking for a new location for the Hinkley Post Office, which has been at the same location since 1958, It will close Friday.

The number of street deliveries in Hinkley has dropped by nearly 38 percent — from 504 in 2012 to 321 in 2015, U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Eva M. Jackson told the San Bernardino Sun newspaper (http://bit.ly/19D1Q3a ).

Rented boxes dropped 76 percent, from 321 to 75, during the same period, she said.

Hinkley's population has been dwindling for years as the community struggled with concerns over the cancer-causing chromium-6 in well water.

During the 1950s and 1960s, PG&E used chromium-6 to kill algae and protect the metal at its Hinkley natural gas pumping station. Decades later, residents blamed their illnesses on a plume of contaminated groundwater that is 8 miles long and 2 miles wide.

The utility reached a $333 million settlement with residents in a case portrayed in the hit 2000 film "Erin Brockovich," starring Julia Roberts.

Business at the convenience store — the Hinkley Market — collapsed after the nearby Hinkley Elementary School closed in June 2013, the newspaper said.

The school shut down because of dwindling enrollment. The market and gas station will close at the end of April.

"It's another blow to the community," Lester White, a longtime community advocate, said of the loss of the town's only storefront.

The land parcel containing the gas station, market and post office is owned by Barstow resident Tawfig A. Musitef, who could not be reached for comment.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith told the Sun that the company is in negotiations to buy the parcel.

PG&E has been buying residential properties in Hinkley for decades as people seek to relocate.

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Information from: The Sun, http://www.sbsun.com