Overly restrictive drinking water standard proposed for hexavalent chromium

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Oct. 10, 2013 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

On August 23, 2013, the California Department of Public Health (DPH) proposed a drinking water regulation to establish a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for hexavalent chromium (Cr6).  The proposed MCL is 10 parts per billion (ppb).  The rulemaking is currently in a 45-day comment period, which is set to close with a hearing on October 11, 2013. 

Both community water and non-community water systems are required to comply with MCLs and are considered "public" water systems for purposes of regulation. The US EPA and Cal EPA define a non-community water system in the same way, as: “A public water system that regularly supplies water to at least 25 of the same people at least six months per year, but not year round. Some examples are schools, factories, office buildings and hospitals which have their own water systems.”  Costs of compliance with the new proposed MCL for Cr6 are substantial for both community and non-community water systems.

DPH estimates that for small water systems, compliance with a 10 ppb MCL would only reduce cancer risk by 0.3 cancers per year statewide.  Further, this theoretical risk reduction benefit would be achieved only after implementing the regulation for 70 years.  According to DPH figures, impacted small water systems are expected to charge households and businesses $5,600 annually to cover the cost of compliance. 

California businesses may face high direct costs as a result.  DPH asserts in the "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" that the regulatory action will have no significant adverse economic impact on California business enterprises and individuals; however, in its “Cost-Benefit Analysis”, DPH estimates it will cost certain businesses that have their own water systems $28.7 million to comply.  DPH identified 65 private water systems, including businesses that will be required to comply with the regulations.  If we assume that these costs are borne equally by each of these 65 entities, the annual cost increase for any individual entity would be $442,000.

Businesses and homes getting water from small water systems will face substantial costs for virtually no public health benefit.  CMTA will be testifying in favor of raising the MCL at this Friday’s hearing.

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