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CA Enforces Nation's First Limit On Chromium In Drinking Water

Michelle Bergmann |
April 16, 2014 | 1:23 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

The California Department of Public Health is adapting the nations' first-ever drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen found in water supplies across California. Also, known as Chromium 6, the toxin became notorious after the film "Erin Brockovich" told a true story of how the industrial chemical was polluting the water in the small desert town of Hinkley, California.

Part of this program was ordered by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, a state agency which oversees the Hinkley groundwater clean-up. Hinkley has been battling the water controversy since the 1960's and now the new California law will be enfoced staring July 1st, 2014. 

The California Department of Public Health submitted a final regulation on Tuesday setting a limit of 10 parts per billion in public drinking water supplies (equivalent to 10 drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool). This means it will be five times greater than a non-enforceable public health goal set earlier by the state Environmental Protection Agency as a response to the environmentalists felt the proposed limit wasn't strong enough.

The side effects of chromium 6 in drinking water are known to cause damage to the nose, throat and lungs with symptoms ranging from a running nose and itchy skin to as serious as lung cancer. It's no wonder why some Hinkley residents think the CDPH could do more.

Dan Banks, community leader and Hinkely resident told the San Bernadino Sun that "The decision is clearly based on economics and not science. The cost of bringing this (chromium 6) down from ten parts per billion to two parts per billion is minuscule," Banks said, "It is clear that California is no longer the environmental-and-people protecting state". 

But chromium 6 can also occur naturally from geological formations. Rich Atwater Executive Director of Southen California Water Committee told the LA Times that communities with naturally occurring chromium 6 in their aquifers, like Coachella Valley, "will be spending an extraordinary amount of local customer's water bills on state-of-the-art new treatment systems."

This new level would require more than 100 water systems to treat for containment but some feel the initiative is still not enough when it comes to the risk of public health.

"The long-delayed action today simply does not provide enough protection for people's health," said attorney Avinash Kar with the Natural Resources Defense Council to the LA Times. 

Read more at the LA Times

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