2011-07-28 "Chromium 6 limit in water goal set by Calif. EPA" by Wyatt Buchanan from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
The California Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday released the nation's first standard for limiting a cancer-causing chemical in drinking water.
The agency set a public health goal for hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6, that will be used by the state's Department of Public Health to help create a legally enforceable limit on the chemical in drinking water. The agency set the goal at .02 parts per billion.
Chromium 6 gained national infamy after a toxic plume contaminated water in the Mojave Desert town of Hinkley (San Bernardino County) - leading to a $333 million settlement from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. - and was dramatized in the film "Erin Brockovich."
Dr. George Alexeef, acting director of the agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said the goal "is the culmination of years of study and research on the health effects of this chemical. As the nation's first official goal for this contaminant, it will be an important tool" to develop a regulatory standard.
The Department of Public Health will consider the goal, along with the costs and feasibility of reaching it, in creating a final regulatory standard. That could take several years. The goal is equivalent to a likelihood of one person in a million developing cancer after drinking tap water with that level of the chemical every day for 70 years.
The Legislature called for a standard to be in place by 2004, but there have been a host of delays, including proving scientifically that the chemical is dangerous if ingested. The harmful effects of inhaling it already were established.
Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised the level of the public health goal and said she expected some water agencies would begin reducing the level of the chemical - if it exists in their supply - to that standard even before the state makes a final regulation.
"I expect there will be a few places where there will be problems that need to be addressed and a lot of areas where won't it be very difficult to achieve," Solomon said. The group has called on the federal government to take similar action.