Cap on Chromium-6 Levels Announced


The California Dept. of Public Health (CDPH) announced on Wednesday that it would move forward with new recommendations for limits on chromium-6 levels in the state’s drinking water.

Chromium-6, otherwise known as hexavalent chromium, is a metallic element often used in the manufacturing of stainless steel and textile dyes. It has been found to be a carcinogenic toxin that carries the potential of increasing the risk for lung and kidney cancer. It is tasteless and odorless. Much of the chromium-6 found in the region today is the result of run-off from the aerospace industry boom of the mid 20th century. Southern California was a renowned center of aerospace technology until the industry began to sputter in the late 1980s.

The pollutant has also been an ordeal for Glendale, which has suffered from the problem for decades.

The CDPH’s recommendation, which came after 18,000 comments from the public in support of more stringent standards, is expected to be signed into law within the next 30 days by the state’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL), after which it goes into effect beginning July.

The maximum amount of chromium-6 proposed by the CDPH’s report is 0.010 milligrams per liter, or 10 parts per billion – about the equivalent of one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The current standard is 50 micrograms per liter.

“The drinking water standard for [chromium-6] of 10 parts per billion will protect public health while taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility as required by law,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer.

Chromium-6 and its poisonous effects on public drinking water came to national attention in 2000 with the film “Erin Brockovich.” The film dramatizes the eponymous real-life lawyer’s fight with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) over the contamination of groundwater in Hinkley, Calif. Her case was eventually settled for $333 million, with the funds dispersed among affected residents.

The new caps won’t affect Glendale as its standards, five parts per 10 billion, is lower than the state’s recommendation. Chromium-6 in the city’s groundwater is diluted to healthy levels by mixing it with clean, imported water – an option that can be costly.

Glendale is currently spearheading research into the removal of chromium-6 from water, investing approximately $11 million in grant money towards that end.

In a press release issued by the city in August, former mayor Dave Weaver praised Glendale Water & Power’s (GWP) initiatives and use of the best available technologies over the past decade to ensure the safety of its groundwater.

“Glendale is proud to be a leader in this area that has assisted the CDPH and others,” he said. “Because of our leadership, I am especially proud to know that our water is the best in the west.”