Introduction to Study Area Hydrogeology, Chromium Sources, Site History, and Purpose of Study

Professional Paper 1885-A
Prepared in cooperation with the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board
By: , and 



Between 1952 and 1964, hexavalent chromium, Cr(VI), was released into groundwater from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) Hinkley compressor station in the Mojave Desert 80 miles (mi) northeast of Los Angeles, California. Remediation began in 1992, and in 2010, site cleanup was projected to require between 10 and 95 years and was expected to cost between $36 and $176 million. A 2007 PG&E study estimated the natural Cr(VI) background in groundwater in Hinkley Valley to be 3.1 micrograms per liter (μg/L). This concentration was used for interim regulatory purposes by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB). In the fourth quarter (October–December) 2015, the regulatory Cr(VI) plume extended about 3.0 mi downgradient from the release location within the Hinkley compressor station, while groundwater having Cr(VI) concentrations greater than 3.1 μg/L was present more than 8 mi downgradient. Although rocks and minerals in the area are naturally low in chromium, alluvium eroded from the San Gabriel Mountains and transported to Hinkley Valley by the Mojave River, and locally small exposures of mafic rock, including hornblende diorite and basalt, may contribute Cr(VI) to groundwater. In response to limitations of the PG&E 2007 Cr(VI) background study’s methodology, uncertainty in the natural Cr(VI) background concentration, and an increase in the mapped extent of groundwater having Cr(VI) concentrations greater than the interim regulatory background of 3.1 μg/L, the Lahontan RWQCB concluded that the 2007 PG&E background Cr(VI) study should be updated. The purpose of the updated study is to estimate background Cr(VI) concentrations in groundwater within the upper aquifer upgradient, downgradient, near the margins, and within the footprint of the PG&E Cr(VI) plume in Hinkley, California. The scope of the study included eight tasks; results from those tasks are presented in the chapters within this professional paper.

Suggested Citation

Izbicki, J.A., Groover, K.D., Miller, D.M., Seymour, W., Warden, J.G., and Miller, L.G., 2023, Introduction to study area hydrogeology, chromium sources, site history, and purpose of study, Chapter A of Natural and anthropogenic (human-made) hexavalent chromium, Cr(VI), in groundwater near a mapped plume, Hinkley, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1885-A, 20 p.,

ISSN: 2330-7102 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • A.1 Introduction
  • A.2 Hydrogeology
  • A.3 Chromium in Rock and Alluvium within the Mojave River Drainage
  • A.4 Site History
  • A.5 Purpose and Scope of the USGS Hexavalent Chromium Background Study
  • A.6 References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Introduction to study area hydrogeology, chromium sources, site history, and purpose of study
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1885
Chapter A
DOI 10.3133/pp1885A
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description Report: viii, 20 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State California
City Hinkley
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details