State officially announces nation's first drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Aug. 29, 2013 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

As expected, state officials with the Department of Public Health (DPH) have officially announced the first-in-the-nation drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium.

At 10 parts per billion for the hexavalent form of chromium, the standard is 500 times greater than the non-enforceable public health goal set two years ago by the state Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). This is five times less than the current total chromium standard of 50 ppb, which includes both trivalent chromium (chromium-3) and chromium-6. The federal MCL for total chromium is 100 ppb.

Chromium-3 is harmless and actually a required nutrient, while chromium-6 may pose a risk of cancer when ingested.Hexavalent chromium (Chrome-6) occurs naturally, but is also an industrial contaminant whose profile was elevated in the 2000 movie "Erin Brockovich." The movie portrayed the small California town of Hinkley's fight over their contaminated water supply, a result of industrial releases.

DPH suggests the proposal is a balance of public health, cost and treatment technology, but have also acknowledged that economic impacts were also an important consideration. The environmental and public health community oppose the proposed limit, suggesting that the level is far too high, even though the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) originally pushed the state to issue the delayed standard. The business community and most water purveyors feel that this standard is still too low given the results of an extensive mode of action study released earlier this year.

With the formal announcement, DPH has opened a comment period through October 11th and will hold public hearings in Sacramento and Los Angeles that same day to receive verbal comments.

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