The Postal Service is closing the post office in Hinkley, California, on March 20 for an emergency suspension. According to the local news report, the building housing the post office is being sold to Pacific Gas & Electric. Hinkley’s only gas station and market are also in the building, and they’ll be closing too, so this will be a big loss to the community.
While it’s possible that the Postal Service will eventually find a new location in Hinkley, that doesn’t appear likely. The news report says PG&E offered to help find another location, but the Postal Service is installing a cluster box unit instead, and it has told residents that if they need to do business at a post office, they’ll have to drive over 14 miles to Barstow.
Hinkley is a small, unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert, with a population of about 1,900 (as of 2000). The new owner of the post office building is not just any business in town, and one wonders why PG&E wanted to buy the building in the first place.
According to the Wikipedia article, Hinkley is the location of a compressor station for PG&E’s massive natural gas transmission pipelines. Between 1952 and 1966, the water used to cool the compressors contained hexavalent chromium to prevent rust in the machinery. The water was stored in unlined ponds and ultimately contaminated the groundwater in the area.
Residents of Hinkley filed a class action suit against PG&E, which resulted in a multi-million-dollar settlement in 1996.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because the legal case was the subject of Erin Brockovich, the 2000 film starring Julia Roberts.
Unfortunately, the legal settlement wasn’t the end of the story. The cleanup of the underground plume of contaminated water is still going on, and the plume is apparently just getting bigger.
Regarding the closing of the market and post office, PG&E issued a statement saying, “PG&E understands that the market is an important part of the Hinkley community, and that it will be missed by many Hinkley residents. PG&E remains committed to working with Hinkley residents on other community-focused initiatives.”
The letter PG&E wrote the Postal Service gives March 24 as the date for vacating the building. Coincidentally enough, that’s also the date that the Postal Service’s lease on the space ends.
More than likely, then, the Postal Service knew long ago that it would not be renewing the lease, so it it’s not clear why residents are being informed just one week before the post office is closing.
For those who can’t make the long drive to Barstow, the Postal Service says that they can have stamps mailed to them by making orders on the U.S. Postal Service website at www.usps.com.
(Photo credits: Hinkley market and post office (Google street views); Julia as Erin; mailboxes in Hinkley)