PG&E Reaches $295 Million Settlement Over Chromium Claims

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E -- http://www.pge.com) announced on Feb. 3 that it reached a $295 million settlement with residents of three California counties who claimed that the utility contaminated their drinking water with hexavalent chromium (chromium 6).

The settlement, which involves 1,100 people who lived in Kings, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, revolves around lawsuits first filed in 1996 by some of the same attorneys involved in the case made famous by the movie "Erin Brockovich." According to the plaintiffs, chromium 6 caused some of them to suffer cancer and kidney failure, as well as other illnesses.

This settlement resolves more than 10 years of litigation and brings closure to substantially all of the outstanding chromium-related claims against PG&E, company officials said. "Importantly, it enables both sides to go forward. As such, we view it as an outcome that is fair and in the best interest of all the parties," officials said.

This case resulted from events that occurred many decades ago. Company officials said that in the 1960s, some PG&E workers became aware that chromium was present in groundwater wells near company operations. "Regrettably, the facts suggest that they did not share that information with others in the company or the public at the time," PG&E officials said.

"Clearly, this situation should never have happened, and we are sorry that it did. It is not the way we do business, and we believe it would not happen in our company today," company officials said.

Suits involving about 100 to 150 people are pending.

The financial effects of the settlement will be reflected in PG&E's 2005 financial results when they are reported on Feb. 17.

Additional information on chromium 6 can be accessed at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts7.html.

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